Is Collaborative Law Cheaper than Litigation?
Answer: Sometimes, but it's really hard to directly compare the two systems.
Collaborative Law involves having a series of relatively brief meetings to work through to settlement in an organized and efficient manner. Including the preparation and debriefing times for each meeting, my experience is that there is often a three-hour block of time expended for each meeting. That can add up to some significant time if there are many meetings. Of course, the contrast in litigation is that there would probably be a number of court appearances in a case with complex property to divide or with custody issues, so the actual time commitment may not be greater in Collaborative cases. There are some other factors to consider that would seem to indicate that Collaborative cases can save time when compared to litigation. Consider these.
A Collaborative case normally (in Texas, at least) involves a single neutral financial professional (FP) and a neutral mental health professional (MHP). In litigation, the cost is usually doubled because each side hires their own expert. That sometimes results in hiring a third professional to break the tie if the original two experts don't agree on the issue. A single child specialist is often used in Collaborative cases, or the regular MHP may act as the child specialist. That compares with litigation where it is not unusual to have two or three experts on children's issues.
The parties ask for and produce only the necessary information in Collaborative cases instead of using standardized, boilerplate requests for voluminous information, much of which is never used. Collaborative Law saves trees, time and money by focusing only on the relevant issues for discovery, which is done informally. There's no playing games with objections and motions for sanctions. The appropriate information is produced and used.
The parties and attorneys don't waste a lot time arguing and posturing. Collaborative Law uses interest-based negotiating, instead of positional bargaining. We start off the process by establishing and clarifying the goals, needs and interests of each party. We creat solutions for achieving those goals rather than taking arbitrary positions and moving slowly to a compromise.
The parties don't file motions and set hearings with the court. That can be very time consuming and expensive for the parties. Obviously, not having court hearings means that the parties don't waste half a day waiting around the courthouse for each hearing.
The parties don't have to wait for distant court dates. The process moves along as fast as the parties both want and they can finish it when they are ready, rather than waiting for the court to have time for a hearing or trial.
Using the MHP results in more pleasant, efficient and effective work sessions. The meetings, although sometimes difficult and emotional, are improved by having the MHP work with the parties before, during and after the joint meetings. The MHP helps everyone operate at a higher, more adult level, and therefore they can get more done and the stress is greatly reduced for all. This is not to imply that the process is emotionally easy. Actually, it is often very difficult for both the parties and the attorneys, but the process can be effective because it utilizes the experts and trained attorneys who all work for the common goal of an agreement that benefits both parties. Collaborative Law cases normally would not have depositions and there would be no depositions of the parties. That saves money and a great deal of stress that commonly occurs in contested litigation cases. Although it is fair to say that a Collaborative case is probably cheaper than a litigated case, there really is no way to absolutely prove that because no two cases are alike. Nevertheless, the list above includes a number of money-saving innovations in Collaborative Law.
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