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Is Collaborative Law Really Speedier than Litigation?

Sept. 13, 2021

No Easy Comparison

Usually it is, although it's hard to know. Comparing two litigated cases is hard to do because of so many different variables in each case: different judges, different emotional states of the parties, different facts, different histories of the parties, different motivations, and so on. Although people try to compare divorces all the time, the comparisons are not fair or accurate because of the differences in the cases. It's easy to find a few things the cases may have in common, but it's the differences than prevent the cases from being fair comparisons. For the same and other reasons, comparing a litigated case to a Collaborative case is inexact.

Having said that, Collaborative cases will usually be resolved sooner than the average litigated divorce that is contested. Collaborative Law cases would be counted as contested cases because the parties use the process to resolve issues that they have not been able to agree on.

How Long Do Collaborative Cases Take?

Collaborative Law cases could take months and months to complete, if the parties want to take that long, but the “average“ case will usually take about 4 to 6 months, and often less. In Tarrant County, and probably most large urban counties, it usually takes at least a year for a contested litigated case to be resolved.

Nevertheless, some Collaborative clients end up feeling like their cases are taking forever to resolve. There are several reasons for that, even where the cases are resolved much more quickly than they probably would be in litigation.

Reasons Why the Process Sometimes Seems Slow

  • The face-to-face negotiations can be tough for the parties. In litigation the attorneys do most of the speaking and work. In Collaborative cases, the parties are much more involved in discussions and decisions. Although meetings are usually limited to a maximum of two hours each, they can be tiring and emotionally draining. Stressful events feel longer than enjoyable ones.

  • Sometimes, the parties get bogged down in small issues and get frustrated. Experienced attorneys and a mental health professional will do their best to recognize the pace and the frustration. They will try to keep the process moving forward. But, it happens occasionally. For some people, it just takes a little longer to process certain issues.

  • Parties may get frustrated because they see a clear solution to a problem, but there's no quick agreement. In an effort to meet the needs of both parties, the professionals may insist that the parties discuss other possible solutions. Many people who agree to use the Collaborative approach have a hard time following the “Roadmap to Resolution”. The Roadmap is the steps we take to create solutions that are acceptable to both parties. We create or consider multiple possible solutions before choosing one for the settlement. Some people get frustrated and start to feel that the process is moving at a snail's pace.

  • The parties to the lawsuit usually have no point of reference to compare speed. The attorneys can easily imagine the amount of time that would pass as they experience the various routine stages of a contested, litigated case: filing, setting a temporary hearing, completing service, doing discovery, getting a scheduling order, attending mediation and preparing for, and participating in, final trial. Attorneys know how long various steps take in litigation and what would be happening if the case were in litigation. On the other hand, the parties usually only know what they are experiencing in their case, so they don't realize that they are actually moving along relatively quickly.

What to Do If You Feel Frustrated by the Pace

The parties using Collaborative Law should keep in mind that they are not in a race. A speedy resolution is usually not one of the goals they come up with at the outset. Most of time, the parties are more concerned with such things as creativity, customizing solutions, maintaining privacy, keeping control over the process and maintaining family relationships.

If you are in a Collaborative case and start to feel like the case is really dragging, talk to your attorney or the mental health professional about your concerns. They may explain how the alternative would be a much slower process in their experience. Still, bring up your concerns and they will be addressed.

Call us if you would like to consider the Collaborative method for your divorce.