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Traditional Litigation VS. Collaborative Process

CRAIG CHERNEY: Good morning, my name is Craig Cherney. I’m with Canterbury Law Group in North Scottsdale, Arizona.

MONICA DONALDSON STEWART: Hi, I’m Monica Donaldson Stewart and I’m a family law attorney in Chandler, Arizona.

So one of the quotes that I heard recently I thought was interesting – I heard someone describe traditional divorce as “judicial roulette.”

CRAIG CHERNEY: I think that’s a good analogy. Unfortunately, in our system with conventional litigation, I call it the black-box litigation. You have a person with a black robe who’s going to make really big decisions about your future whether you like it or not, and the timing and the costs to roll through the roulette process can be exorbitant.

Let’s contrast that with collaborative law.

MONICA DONALDSON STEWART: Well, in the collaborative process, there is a set process that’s followed. You know from the get-go what that path is going to look like, who the professionals are that you’re going to be working with, and what kind of mutual outcomes you’re trying to achieve. So you’re not leaving it to the person in the black robe, or like I tell parents, the stranger in the black robe who’s going to get to make the decisions for the rest of their life.

CRAIG CHERNEY: That’s a really good point. In collaborative you can fix the timing, you can do it in a much shorter timespan. In conventional divorce in my experience, six to a 24-month process. Would you agree?

MONICA DONALDSON STEWART: I would agree.

CRAIG CHERNEY: And then in a collaborative, in contrast, what’s been your experience on timing?

MONICA DONALDSON STEWART: Well, my experience has been that it can be completed in as little as about 90 days. Sometimes it takes a little longer if there are reasons to extend that timeline if there are events that you’re waiting to occur that help dictate what you want that outcome to be. But I think the important part is that that’s really up to the participants in the process. It’s not waiting for a judge’s calendar to open to get you to that (inaudible).

CRAIG CHERNEY: It sounds like in the collaborative context, the parties are driving the bus. In the conventional, black-box, roulette litigation, they’re passengers on a judge-led bus.

MONICA DONALDSON STEWART: I would agree.

CRAIG CHERNEY: I’ll take your bus. Thank you very much.