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Ask a Vexxpert: The Dreaded D-Word (Divorce) and Managing it Collaboratively featuring Renée Nichols

5 min. readbyVexxit StaffonJune 23, 2022
No one goes into a marriage expecting it to end, but it happens. Whether it’s you or one of your employees dealing with the dreaded d-word, the impact can be far-reaching. Divorce can take an emotional and financial toll, not to mention a toll on your business’ bottom line.

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Collaborative law aims to minimize the messiness and help soon-to-be-ex partners manage their issues—you guessed it—collaboratively.

Today, we talk to Renée Nichols, family lawyer with Bennet Waugh Corne, about why collaborative law works and how it can make a difficult time a little bit easier.

The difference between collaborative family law, mediation, and litigation

Mediation and collaborate family law are forms of Alternative Dispute resolution, which means they are ways to resolve disputes out of court.

“Litigation, by its very nature, is adversarial,” says Renée. “It’s set up for winners and losers.”

It can also be slower moving than its alternatives, given that you’re at the mercy of the court’s schedule.

In mediation, a neutral party helps individuals have the hard conversations and discuss what is important to each of them so they can make decisions for themselves.

Lawyers can be involved in both mediation and collaboration, particularly those who have been trained in these types of practices.

“A collaboratively trained lawyer has a different way of thinking and speaking,” says Renée, who started her career as a traditional litigator.

Collaborative law starts with a team, Renée explains, comprised of the separating couple and their lawyer. From there, you can choose to bring in a coach—someone who helps keep communication on track—along with other professionals, like a financial advisor or a child specialist.

“It’s a strong choice for people with children, but I have worked with lots of couples without children and it can still have a lot of benefits,” Renée says.

There’s a misconception that collaborative law is for people who are already getting along, though Renée says that’s not true.

“It’s not that we’re all going to sit around and be nice the whole time, but we’re going to be respectful and we’re going to try to build something,” says Renée, “whereas litigation, in my view, really tears it apart sometimes.”

Collaborative law also affords the privacy that litigation doesn’t, as court records of litigation are accessible to anyone searching for them.

When alternative practices don’t work

There needs to be a level playing field with mediation and collaboration, and issues like domestic violence or mental health struggles can make this difficult to achieve. It’s not impossible, especially with a lawyer on your side, though it’s certainly more challenging.

Managing divorce in the workplace

If one of your employees is going through a divorce, the best thing you can do—for them and your business—is be patient.

It can also help to have some flexibility around your employee’s schedule, if that means they have to adjust their start time slightly to accommodate a new parenting plan or attend meetings with their lawyer.

Most times, the issues effecting the employee as a result of the separation are short-lived and having some understanding around it can help you keep a good employee in the long-term.

Finding your legal fit

Aside from finding someone who’s trained in collaborative law, it’s important to find someone you’re comfortable with. Whatever your situation, ask questions and find out if collaborative process can work for your family.

“People make good decisions for themselves when they have the right information and the proper supports in place,” Renée says.

Tune in to our full podcast for more on collaborative law with Renée. You can also find her on LinkedIn or at Bennet Waugh Corne.

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