Collaborative Family Law v. The Hartshornes

Divorce litigation appears to be so wasteful. Precious money, time and emotional energy get consumed in battles that could be resolved so much more quickly through negotiation; and processes that promote settlement out of court like collaborative family law seem so obviously to be the better way.

However, while researching a paper on prenuptial agreements I happened upon the trials and tribulations of the Hartshornes. This is an extraordinary story – They disputed a prenuptial agreement all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada then fought about how to apply the decision, who gets the matrimonial home, how much to pay for the other party’s share of the home and finally over costs. All told they went to Court nine times over ten years.

It occurred to me that a collaborative process would have been very dissatisfying to this most combative couple. Although the notion that litigation should be avoided seems like such a reasonable point of view, it could be very patronizing to push this view on someone who is experiencing a painful marital breakdown and genuinely wants to fight.

No doubt lawyers who practice CFL are keenly aware of this, but the Hartshorne story makes the point so abundantly clear. It’s a monument to post-matrimonial melee.  And to their credit, the Hartshornes fought with lawyers rather than fists … but I still scratch my head in amazement. Ten years in court to end a twelve-year marriage. Incredible.

About the Author

John Magyar
John J. Magyar, B.A., J.D., Graduate student, University of Western Faculty of Law. John received a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Western Ontario in 1990 and completed the Recorded Music Production program at Fanshawe College in 1993. Before returning to UWO to study Law, he held a wide variety of jobs including Operations Manager at Other Peoples Music Inc and Research Director at Technical Economists Ltd., a commercial real estate consulting service in downtown Toronto. He received a J.D. from UWO in 2010 and is currently working on an LL.M. thesis on statutory interpretation.

2 Comments on "Collaborative Family Law v. The Hartshornes"

  1. It is true that most cases can be solved through negotiations but sometimes the marriage is broken in law terms irretrievable break down of marriage. There can be variety of reasons for this, One thing I must highlight over here is that in United Kingdom prenuptial agreement is not given the importance as it is given in Canada and United States. There was a recent article that in United Kingdom now we see less divorce. Shall we blame the recession for this? Because it is a very expensive game.
    But you are right if these matters are sorted through counselling, consultation and negotiation it will be economic for both partners. Both divorce is such a fragile matter that there is no right or wrong answer. Every case has different situation and serious matters involved.

    I think I have cleared my point. You have shed light on some grey area family law. Keep it up.

  2. John Magyar | January 31, 2010 at 2:36 pm |

    Thank you.

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