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Collaborative Law, Children and Divorce
by Jonetta Kapusta-Dorogi
Most divorcing people with families are primarily concerned about the welfare of their children as the structure of their household changes. The negative effects on children and parents in high-conflict divorces are well documented. There is little doubt divorcing spouses should be concerned about the emotional and economic well being of their children and themselves.

One way you can protect your children and yourself is to avoid litigation and seek consensual resolution of your differences through collaborative Law.

Collaborative law is a settlement process in which you and your spouse commit to resolve your problems with your attorneys in a win-win way without resorting to court intervention. This allows you the opportunity to protect your children from the harm associated with litigation and to place more value on structuring the new relationships which will exist after the divorce.

Collaborative law is the newest divorce dispute-resolution model. In collaborative law, both parties to the divorce or family conflict obtain lawyers whose only job is to help them settle the case. During the settlement talks, all the information needed is freely revealed and exchanged. The lawyers and the parties try to resolve the matter in the best and most tailored way for the people involved.

If settlement is not reached, the lawyers agree in advance not to represent the people in court. This is called a disqualification agreement. Its existence strengthens the couple’s and attorneys’ commitment to settle the case. If the divorce does go to court, you might still be ahead as much of the information has already been gathered and some issues have been most likely resolved.

Collaborative process means more flexibility and control
The collaborative process allows you to take into consideration the values, traditions and schedules of your family members. You have more freedom to design plans that will make sense and work for your restructured family. Additionally, the collaborative process allows you to take control and handle urgent temporary support and custody time-sharing matters to stabilize circumstances while avoiding premature negotiation of difficult issues.

In the collaborative process, if custody issues become more challenging, you can employ a mental health professional to assist you. This professional becomes a team member who focuses on the best interest of the children. This professional can make a parent aware of the impact of his or her actions on the children.

This professional might make recommendations for improving parenting and communication skills or suggest future individual or family counseling which will help the children through this difficult time. The result could be a more caring, loving and involved relationship between the children and both parents.

When collaboration is not advised
Certain personalities and situations are not suited for a collaborative process. These include abuse, neglect and drug dependency to name a few. However, in most circumstances the collaborative process will work.

Ultimately, you and your partner will be co-parenting children together. In this relationship you will want the best co-parenting relationship possible. Taking personal responsibility for handling conflicts with integrity certainly will provide you and your partner with a more creative and individualized range of choices in resolving your issues.

It makes no sense to hand over decisions about restructuring your child rearing arrangements to a stranger. Making a commitment of your financial and emotional resources toward creative problem solving rather than recrimination and revenge, will certainly be in the best interest of your children.

Jonetta Kapusta-Dorogi concentrates her practice in the area of family law. Ms. Dorogi’s experience includes analysis and litigation of complex domestic relations issues, including business evaluation, treatment of retirement assets in divorce, tax considerations involved in the payment and receipt of spousal support and custody issues. As a mother of three children, she is sensitive to child related issues and has an analytical and practical approach to problem solving. She can be reached at 216.781.5515 or  

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