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April 19, 2024

Why to Collaborate to Resolve Disputes?

Lynnore K. Seaton, Esquire

There are numerous advantages to collaborating to resolve disputes, particularly in comparison to litigating. Collaborating to resolve disputes offers several benefits:

Confidentiality is a significant advantage in collaborating to resolve disputes in lieu of litigating. Litigation is an intrusive process. While most family law matters are to be confidential, all filings must be made in the courthouse. There are numerous staff present in hearings on some of the most sensitive matters that occur in a family. With the exception of basic pleadings, collaboration does not require communications to be made to those outside of the Collaborative Process. While evidence used in hearings must be filed with the court, collaborating requires no public disclosure of what is exchanged between the parties or what the documents contain.

Control is another advantage of collaborating versus litigating. The parties are able to voluntarily participate. They are in control and may pick times to meet that are convenient for all concerned. Litigation compels a party to participate, and the court will designate the time and place for hearings, and conferences, regardless of the parties’ schedules.

Collaborative meetings can be held remotely, in person or a hybrid of both. Again, the parties are able to set the time and pace of the meetings, with the assistance of neutral professionals, not based upon the dictation of the court.

Parties also have more control over the outcome compared to litigation or arbitration, where decisions are made by judges or arbitrators. This autonomy can lead to more sustainable and satisfactory solutions, which is a great segue into the next advantage…

Successful collaboration creates higher mutual satisfaction. Collaborative resolutions tend to result in outcomes that satisfy both parties to a greater extent compared to imposed solutions. This mutual satisfaction increases the likelihood of compliance and reduces the risk of future conflicts.

Collaborating can lead to more efficiency. Collaborative problem-solving can often lead to quicker resolutions compared to lengthy legal battles or other adversarial processes. This efficiency saves time, money, and emotional energy for all involved parties. Litigation can be drawn out, including years of discovery and letter writing between attorneys. It may include significant court costs, attorneys’ fees, and expert fees. Collaborating to resolve a dispute does not require court costs and is a much faster, efficient process, saving both parties time and money.

There is a reduced risk of escalation when you collaborate. By fostering open communication and cooperation, collaboration reduces the risk of disputes escalating into larger conflicts. This proactive approach helps in maintaining peace and stability in personal and professional relationships.

Collaboration is not restricted by the rules of evidence. When collaborating to resolve disputes, the parties are able to speak freely. The parties themselves determine the best procedure. In litigation, significant information may not be permitted due to a limitation established by the rules of evidence that must be followed by the court.

Creative Problem Solving. Collaboration allows for brainstorming and exploring creative solutions that may not be apparent in a confrontational or adversarial approach. Parties can leverage each other's perspectives and expertise to generate innovative solutions. Collaborative solutions may include results that would never happen in court, but the parties have chosen to adopt those results because they mutually agree that is in their best interest.

Collaboration may save a familial relationship. It is rare that a family relationship becomes stronger after family members or former spouses have litigated against each other. The Collaborative Process allows both parties to be heard and to work together as a team for everyone’s best interest. This often allows the parties to maintain and sometimes even improve their relationships.

Collaboration focuses on finding mutually beneficial solutions rather than defeating the other party. This approach helps in preserving relationships, which is especially important in ongoing business or personal relationships.

Collaborating to resolve disputes provides an opportunity for learning and personal growth for all parties involved. It encourages communication, empathy, and understanding of different perspectives, which can improve future interactions, which are particularly important when families are involved. Parents are rarely able to successfully co-parent after they have torn each other apart in a custody trial.

Overall, collaboration in dispute resolution promotes win-win outcomes, contributes to a more harmonious and productive environment during the process and may preserve the relationship between the parties in the future. It may not be appropriate for every matter, but attorneys should consider it as an option as often as possible.

Lynnore K. Seaton, Esquire

Law Firm Manager

Ms. Seaton manages a small law firm based in Central Pennsylvania.  She focuses her practice on family and estate law, with an emphasis on Alternative Dispute Resolution, including mediation and Collaborative Law.  She is a graduate of Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and Miami University of Ohio.  Ms. Seaton is a member of the American Bar Association, where she is currently a Fellow to the Collaborative Law Committee.  She’s active in the Pennsylvania Bar Association, where she serves on the House of Delegates and the Investigative Panel of the Judicial Evaluation Committee and she is the past-president of the York County Bar Association’s Board of Directors.  

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