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Welcome to Blog Talk Radio's Collaborative Law Radio for Tuesday, October 15, 2010. Coming to you live from Yardley, Pennsylvania. I'm your host, Tim Adams, President of the Bucks County Collaborative Law Group. The Bucks County Collaborative Law Group is a private non-profit organization focused on __0:39__ the face of divorce, not only in Bucks County but in Pennsylvania at large. Our webpage is buckscountycollaborativelaw.com. Today's special guest is a founding member of the Bucks County Collaborative Law Group, Tracy Timby. She is an attorney, Certified Mediator for the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas, a trained family law mediator, and an experienced attorney practicing since 1997. Tracy, welcome!
Thank you. It's great to be here and thanks for the opportunity to come on.
Sure. How did you get involved in collaborative law?
Well, I practiced right out of law school at a firm here in Newtown and they had one domestic relations attorney and the firm was interested in having a female to counter his maleness because some clients refer a female attorney over a male, so I'm sort of got put in that role as the new person and I litigated for 12 years. About two years ago, I had a custody -- a very contested custody case -- and the mother was representing herself and decided to call her 7-year-old son to the witness stand. Unfortunately, for me, in order to do my job as a litigator and advocate effectively from my client, I was in the position where I had to cross-examine a 7-year-old who was already crying by the time I had my chance. And that just started me thinking that the kids just can't go through this. They shouldn't be put in the middle just because mom and dad have reached a decision to change the family structure. It doesn't necessarily mean that the kids have to be put through all of this. So I started looking for an alternative and as I was doing this, my children were getting older and I realized that I didn't saw anybody including my children when I did for a living. Nobody really wants to talk to you when you're a divorce attorney. They're afraid to talk to you because they don't know what that's going to mean and I didn't really want my children to know that I was a part of the process that was ensuring families essentially and a year ago I decided I was not going to do it anymore.
I didn't know what I was going to do but actually there had to be something out there for me and that's when I found Collaborative and it really put the focus on taking care of the children in a divorce. It gives them a voice to look forward and not back. Overall, those things that have brought the family to their transition what I'm doing right now, and it's just a much better way to go through the process.
One of the things I really kind of find unique about this, is your experience doesn't sound too much different than Stu Webb's? Stu Webb who founded the Collaborative Process to talk in and I think he is actually on a video on our webpage at buckscountycollaborativelaw.com.
But he talks about how he hated getting up on a Monday morning, dreading having to file all sorts of motions and he said that we would go to his office, he felt like there was an old Gary Cooper Western where he would take his hat, put a hat on his right hand and sticking it into his office to see if somebody shoots him. (Laughs)
And so now here we are, you've been practicing attorney for since 1997. You don't even tell your own kids what you do.
You run into the same kind of horrible situation working with a kid on the stand.
So we've heard so many stories of people and attorneys really finding that the current process is just not comfortable enough, but to themselves and their clients and they need to really make a significant change.
Yeah, and I do, I think in terms of the collaborative movement, I'm probably one of the youngsters in terms of realizing earlier in my career because there is a lot of attorneys that they go 20 years or 25 or even 30 years with litigators because that's the way it suppose to be, and I think I'm very fortunate that this movement came up earlier in my career than later so I don't have to spend the 20 years doing it because that's what I'm suppose to do. I have the luxury because of the people like Stu Webb of making an intuition in my practice, and the challenge is educating people that you can actually do this. I have had people say to me because now of course they tell everybody, I do a divorce, I've been a mediator and I'll tell them that as well but he will say, "However, it's worse. That nasty moron. You're crazy. You can't do it," and that overriding kind of assessment is that you have to do it the way it has always been done but when you start talking to pointing out, that is really very expensive to litigate a divorce. That the children suffer and that numerous studies have shown that it's not the divorce that impacts the children, it's how their parents conduct themselves during a divorce. When you see all of that and you explain it to people, they just start shaking their heads and they say, "You know, you're right," particularly the people who had not gone through a divorce but they had been through a litigation client. They know they won't do that again. They want something else and they can see the benefits quickly. If you don't have something to compare it to, it's a little bit harder to set them something that all of their friends aren't doing.
Because they got the stories from somewhere, let's say down the street who got asking them some amount of dollars and harassing same for everything and this and that, and they think the only way to accomplish that is through litigation because that's how everybody does it.
One of the things that I think is unique about you and your practice is you're making some strategic changes and how your practices being run, but one of the things that I think is quite unique about you is that you actually have a degree in counseling, a masters degree in counseling.
How do you think that really is impacting your ability to practice and how you see your practice going forward?
I think when I was litigating divorce, I always felt like I had to put on my suit of armor to go in and do that job. I wasn't operating in my own skin because I was a biopsychology major at St. Joseph's. I went on to Loyola College and got a masters degree in counseling, and I've been trained to emphasize with people with their pain and not __8:38__ do that. Nothing in litigation is __8:44__ seemed compensating you for your pain but your pain still exist so I think I was really struggling with the litigation because I felt like I was causing harm to the people who were going through this very traumatic ways of event as it was and I was navigating them through the legal system. I was hardily advocating for their side but it wasn't helping them. I can tell them, "Yep, we got a great deal here. We got 65% of the marital state," and I've got them a divorce decree and I sent them on their way. I never did, I think or did they asked me or I couldn't even advise them as to what the assets that they got in their settlement, where will they're going to be in 10 years? I can't give a financial advice. It didn't impact me legally. I get them high percentage and for me that was a win and they were satisfied with that at that point in time. So not only was I causing harm at the time of the divorce but 10 years down the road it could be negatively impacting their relationship as well and that just didn't sit well with me given my background in counseling and I think the collaborative is so attractive to me because they kind of let me use all of my education.
To the best way possible. When I was litigating the counseling at the __10:16__ I wasn't part of it but I really get to use the skills that I've developed to tell people.
So you saw the litigated divorce as almost one dimensional?
That it's just handled -- I have to get you to divorce, grab you as much money as I possibly can and close the case.
And so now, with the collaborative process, you're saying that you can bring in a more holistic approach.
A kinder and gentler approach to resolving difficulties.
Yeah and it doesn't mean that there's going to be conflict. It doesn't mean that the attorney who represents the husband and the attorney who represents the wife aren't advocating for their client. We are, but we're doing it in a way where we're looking forward. We're looking at the goal that the couple has or individually have and how can we try to work so that we can meet those goals, and look, everybody doesn't get all their goals met all the time, but you do the best you can and at least you're looking forward and you're not looking back at every parable saying that brought them to a decision to divorce because that's really kind of productive. In litigation, that what starts motions and court appearances and continual correspondents and drives up the bill. So it's just not a great way to do it. In terms with the children with Collaborative, we have the ability to bring in child specialists so that they can find out what the children are feeling. The only time you bring in anybody that even remotely deals with the kids and a litigator __12:02__ really custody, and just the nature of an evaluation suggests to the parents that one is going be better than the other and that's __12:13__ put through that to have to give an opinion as to their parents, and if you could choose where you would want to be, where would you go? They're kids. They love both of their parents. They don't know anything other than that they're their parents.
So in response to this shifting from a one dimensional approach, a litigated approach to resolving marriage issues, your changing __12:46__, how are you doing that?
How am I changing my practice?
Well, actually I personally have started taking cases where the people wanted to litigate a divorce. My firm has an attorney to handle it, it just won't be me, and I've also started really a campaign to educate people about what the attorney says are in divorce, so that they'll know because a lot people don't know that they have a choice. Also with the Collaborative when the attorneys signed on, you agree that if for some reason it breaks down, the attorneys are discharged. So I'm putting myself out there and saying this the way we should do it and if it doesn't work, you can fire me. So there's a lot on the line in terms of transferring your practice because __13:46__ firmly believe that it is sadder for me to do this way and they shouldn't just do it because I say so. They should look at the literature on the IECC website. I have a lot of information on my website as well and there are -- it's a growing number of people who were choosing it. I think New Jersey now, who is our neighboring state, is the third leading state in the collaborative movement. People are doing it. It's not something that you know just a crazy idea anymore or something that people wish we could do. It's happening and it's happening very successfully.
We're talking today with Tracy Timby. She's an attorney, a founding member of the law firm, Timby Hunt, and a leading member in the Collaborative Community on Bucks County, who is really among a growing number of attorneys who were changing the way that they practice law, and she is moving to a __14:57__ Collaborative only practice. Tracy, I think one of the things that some people are concerned is there's some criticisms of collaborative and one of those is that somehow there is a sense among may be some in the profession and may be some members of the community, that if you're really going collaborative, you're going soft. You're really not, you're not protecting your rights interests, and that somehow you're giving up some level of control in collaborative or some measure of your own individual right. What's your thought on that?
I think collaborative attorneys are no less than attorney than a litigator attorney. We just have different focuses. I mean the litigator focuses on the win. You just want to be the one that gets the judgment in your favor or you want to be the one who gets the larger slice of the pie or you want to be the one who won custody of the children more time than not. In Collaborative, we are equally dedicated to the needs of our clients. We are just -- we're not looking for the win. We're looking for an overall win for the family but may be not just for that individual. We're looking at goals. Nobody asked somebody in litigation or judged to be five years from now. That's what we do in Collaborative, and it's interesting because everybody signs a participation agreement, the attorneys and the couple, and we meet through a serious of meetings for all sort of people to sit down and have a circular conversation. I can talk to my clients soon to be expelled. The other attorney can talk to my client and there is not that sort of rectangular conversion that goes on where the client can only talk to the attorney, or the attorney talks the other attorney. And a lot more gets done when you do it that way than when everybody has to filter things through each other.
The true meaning of a client's words are there, for better or worst. It's not necessarily the whisper down the lane where the client tells the attorney, the attorney tells the other attorney, the other attorney tells the client. You get what people truly mean and a lot of times it's not the meaning or it's just the way they steal. So they may say nice things, a lot of times clients will say, "Why do you think you're the good dad?" or "I think she's a good mom." They don't guess that in litigation so the attorneys aren't soft. They're there to advice the client on the law to prevent them from making may be an emotional agreement or reaction by bringing in people to deal with those emotions. I think it's anything the attorneys are better serving their clients in Collaborative because they're recognizing that this is an emotional __18:23__ that we need to bring because they can't handle that. So you don't make a rush decision.
In litigation, I don't care -- make a rush decision -- whatever you want. As long as I win, I'm good.
Right. I think one of the interesting components here is that when you talk about getting the win in litigation and it's sort of -- I get the sense and I think a lot of the people in the Collaborative movement, they're looking for the solution.
And it's a significant change and -- but I also have a deep appreciation for in the collaborative process, is that things can be done in a Collaborative that are fairly unique. There's a more creative solution available for people in the collaborative process because you don't have what I would refer to is a sort of __19:22__ hanging over you.
The sense of if you don't agree with me in a litigated process, if you don't agree with me, I'm taking you to court.
And so there's really no incentive for people to settle or if they do settle, it's a settlement that's thrust upon them rather than then them really embracing it.
And a lot of those clients are very unsatisfied and they end up back in court even after the divorce decree is issued because they have something imposed on them. They've had a third party judge or master to tell them what's going to happen to all of their assets, what we're going to do with the liabilities, and even worse, what's going to happen to their children, where their children are going to be, how much time they're going to spend with their children, and they really don't take into account what's going on in reality. They only look at what's there in the courtroom presented to them that day or a couple of days or what evaluator may have said, something was worse or the children should do or things like that. It really isn't much -- a much more satisfying experience I think for the clients and they don't end up spending money post-divorce going back into court because they're really unhappy with something that was oppose on them.
Right. Last night you and I attended a meeting of the Mid-Jersey Collaborative Law Alliance.
And one of the speakers, the premier speaker that night was Lisa Tiff who was a guest on this show last week, and she talked quite a bit about number of cases that she has handled and she said that she over just recently over, I think a period of 24 months, she has had over 100 collaborative cases.
And that two.
Two -- that was what she said.
Two came back for post-judgment relief or some sort of level of relief from the mutual agreement, and she said that both of them resolved them in collaborative without having a good court.
To me, I think that really demonstrates the power of the collaborative process because now the decisions are now being -- they're not thrust upon people, they're agreed upon, they're worked out, and I think that with your level of counseling, you're bringing something I think fairly unique to the table. But having said that, in the collaborative process, tell us a little bit about who else is involved at the table? We know the two attorneys are, the clients are, we know what they sign the participation agreement, but who else can participate on an as-needed basis within the four-way meeting?
Well, the collaborative is unique and that we can bring if -- I have a coupe now who's actually in mediation but the wife has never had a budget. She's going to be living on her own, setting up her own household. She really has never lived on a budget. She doesn't know how to do that. So I have her set up with an accountant just through a mediation but in collaborative we can bring that accountant in to the room with the attorneys and the parties, and they can do a cash analysis and say, "Okay folks, this is how much she have. If you want to go live in a townhouse, you have X amount to spend per month" and give them some direction so they'll have the knowledge to make an informed decision instead of "I'll just take a 50% of the cash from the house and go out and buy a house." And then we can also bring in financial advisers to say, "Well, may be you don't want to take you $300,000 and just put it all in the real estate because real estate is only going to appreciate back and if we entrusted it here, in 10 years you're going to have a lot more money than if you put it in to a house." We can also bring in divorce __23:47__ one or both of the parties are struggling with the fact that either the divorce was happening which a lot of times that does happen. One person has made up her mind. They've contemplated it. This is not a decision that somebody wakes up one mornings says, "I'm going get a divorce." They started over. They've thought out may be counseling on their own. They've praised to whatever you God they may believe in and they make a decision. Their spouse just finds out the day they tell them, so they're a little bit further behind in terms of expecting that the divorce is going to happen...
And the nice thing in Collaborative is we can get a divorce coach involved to help the people get kind of on the same page before we move forward. In litigation, I don't care if you're not on the same page. I'm going to serve a divorce complaint on you, and you might better get with it or who's going to run you over. So it is a much better way because we're chambering in these other professionals to assist and connect the same thing. The client's money is spent more effectively. They're going to get more for the dollars, I mean I don't -- it is more cost effective, it is not the cheap divorce. It is a better way to divorce. You're money is spent with the people who do the jobs the best way possible but like anything else, it costs money to get divorced, so...
Right. Well in the end, I think when you bring in additional folks, additional resources to help you -- for instance in a litigated process, if there's a business involved, the husband hires a business evaluation expert.
The wife hires a business evaluation expert. They try to come to some sort of at the middle and a lot of time, effort and money is spent challenging with each party challenging the acceptability of each report.
Oh, and it can be -- business evaluations can be $100,000 depending on the size of the business. I mean you could spend -- the couple could spend $200,000 easily on each lining up of their own business evaluator and you go to a master sharing and in case you do not, the master will take -- if the wife's value is $4,000 and the husband's value is $12,000, they just average them and they say, "Let's call it $8,000," -- and that's how it works and they've spent $200,000 to get to that point. Where is in Collaborative, they can say, "Okay, we have a business. We have to evaluate it." They agreed on this business on who's going to do it and got the information they need and to get an informed decision.
This is how it becomes more cost effective...
Because then it's not only the higher -- two business evaluators produce now down to one, it can be, let's hire one child psychologist. Let's hire one per other person that might be valuable to the thing, and this is where I think things very unique in Collaborative is that the client -- and going back to my original thought -- the client gains more control. The client has control over costs. The client has control over decisions that they make. They're not giving control to a client; they have tremendous legal advice next to them. They have attorneys now that instead are adversaries -- instead of being adversaries, they are now colleagues. So the atmosphere is now totally changed to work on a more comprehensive and more substantial way to resolve problems and a more creative way to resolve their problems.
That it is really. I mean I can say with confidence that if you spent six hours in a collaborative divorce, you're getting way more done than if you spent six hours a day at the courthouse waiting for your case to be called.
Well, Tracy, in our last minute here, there's two things I would like to __28:29__ the number one, what do you really like to work with and how would they get in touch with you so that if they wanted your advice, they could hear you and talk to you.
I like working with families where there are children involved. I think the Collaborative can be beneficial for a couple who don't have __29:00__ as well and also you can also use the correct collaborative process for prenuptial. I am a big advocate of let's lie on the line along before we get married so that in the event that we have to get a divorce, a lot of things are already said out. So my particular specialty would be with families with children; I think because of my counseling background.
Sure. And so how do they reach you?
They would reach me on -- our phone number is 215 968 6886. We are right on State Street in Newtown, and they can also see us on the web at www.timbyhunt.com and also on Facebook or Twitter.
Tracy, thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it and we'll talk to you on next week.
Thank you. Bye, bye.
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