January 25, 2011

Family Disputes: Will A Legal Outcome Be The Best Outcome?

When we find ourselves in a dispute with our spouse, or sibling, or anyone else, we often want to talk to a lawyer to find out our legal rights.  But before you take the step to see a lawyer consider a question Chip Rose—mediation and Collaborative trainer—asks his clients when they ask him what their legal rights are: “Why are you aiming so low?  Your legal rights may or may not be a good outcome for you.”

When we’re stressed, angry, scared, feeling threatened, grieving, nervous, or any of the responses to family disputes that people commonly get, we often focus on what outcome would make us feel better.  We might feel reassured or comforted if a lawyer tells us how much child support would be, or how a judge would approach valuing departed mom’s possessions. But in those discussions lawyers don’t usually point out that legal advice is a prediction, and we all know that predictions are not guaranteed outcomes. So if you choose to work with lawyers in a legal process you may end up with a very different outcome than predicted, and you risk getting an outcome that doesn’t meet your needs.

If you do decide to talk to a lawyer to find out your legal rights, keep in mind at least two things: 1) the lawyer is just guessing what will happen based on their past experiences, which may or may not end up being the outcome of your legal process, and 2) the legal process is only focused on bargaining a legal outcome, not on developing an outcome that might work well for you and well for the other people involved.

Mediation and Collaborative Practice are not outcome-driven legal processes, but instead are focused on having all the involved people gather information, develop options and negotiate an outcome they can live with.  The legal process offers only that lawyers will bargain an outcome, irrespective of how those outcomes might actually work in the long run.

I was very happy with the services Unmani provided.

And her totally unbiased way of dealing with both of us.  She pointed out to each of us what the other was trying to say as well as effectively reminding us what it was we were working towards.  She called us both out too if we were being unproductive. I highly recommend Unmani if you are seeking mediation services for a divorce.

- Jagadamba M.
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