The attorney withdrawal provision is a cornerstone of the Collaborative Divorce process. According to court rules, a case cannot be called “collaborative” unless both attorneys and spouses agree that if either spouse decides to go back to traditional court-centered litigation, the attorneys will withdraw. Both spouses will have to find new attorneys to represent them.
While that may seem like a reason to avoid the collaborative process, it is actually a benefit and is what helps make Collaborative work. First, it assures from the beginning that both spouses are committed to settlement and the collaborative process. But, perhaps more important, it assures that the attorneys are committed to settlement. The lawyer’s only mark of success is helping their client reach a beneficial and durable settlement without going to court.
Other Benefits of a Withdrawal Provision
There are other practical benefits of the attorney withdrawal provision. It allows attorneys and spouses to view the divorce as more of a business transaction than a battle. Attorneys don’t think of ways to make the other side look as bad as possible for the court. Instead, they ask, “What will it take to get this deal done?”
Lawyers are freer with discussions. When the lawyers know they will not be going to court, they can be freer and more creative in their conversations and work together and with the spouses to make decisions that are for the clients’ good. As Collaborative advocates for our clients, we are not afraid of what our client might say in a meeting with their spouse and the other lawyer. We know discussions are confidential and that the other lawyer will never be cross-examining our client and cannot use our client’s statements against them.
Focus on the future relationship. In a Collaborative case, the spouses focus on what they want their future relationship to look like. If they have children, even adult children, they will have a relationship for the rest of their lives. What do they want that to look like? How is the divorce process going to help or hurt that relationship?
Collaborative Cases Settle. In our experience, very few collaborative cases fail to reach a settlement and trigger the necessity of the lawyers to withdraw and for the couple to start over again. The withdrawal provision is a key part of why the Collaborative Divorce process works.