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I am sure you have seen this sign on the back of cars and trucks — they are rather ubiquitous (one of my favorite words). When I once again saw it the other night, I thought about Collaborative law. (Is that weird or what? I probably need some more ice cream or something!)

When people get married, they have a ceremony, reception, and then drive off into “happily ever after.” When people form a partnership, they dream of working together and making their mission successful. Any time there is legal commitment of any kind, the plan is that all will go well, and everyone will be happy.

However, let’s face it — not all marriages last “till death do us part”, some partnerships dissolve, and other legal commitments get acrimonious. The next question is always,”What’s next?”

There is a wide variety of options in a spectrum from sitting at your kitchen table and hammering out an agreement to two high-priced “pit bull” lawyers battling to get the court to go one way or another. Within the spectrum, advocacy (court-directed litigation) and Collaboration are two strong options. Advocacy is the most common. It is perfect for many legal issues, but is it the best for personal conflicts like divorce? It is usually characterized by “Bark more; Wag less.” The purpose is for each person to win, to the detriment of the other. Anger leads to a lot of “barking”, which is usually counter-productive and destructive.

When people anticipate the “perfect ending” and it doesn’t happen, the anger is especially viral. Accusations are tossed back and forth, and they are usually overstated and highly emotional. Statements are made that probably wouldn’t be vocalized without the anger and fear.

Collaboration, which doesn’t involve going to court, looks at conflicts differently. Finding a solution takes precedence over accusation. The focus isn’t on retribution but on a mutually-agreeable solution. This process involves more wagging and less barking, but the problems are not swept under the rug. Together the people involved approach each issue as calmly as possible, and viable solutions are found. It seems to me that this is especially important when children are involved.

“Wagging more and barking less” seems much more human, doesn’t it?

PS: In the interest of full inclusion, cat lovers, your sign would say, “Purr more; Hiss less.”

Copyright 2013. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.

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