Divorcing a Narcissist and Collaborative Law

Collaborative looks good.  It presents well, and to those who do not want the battle of the adversarial system, it looks enticing.  It seduces through words such as, “There is no moral future without a meaningful, public encounter with the past.” But when you come right down to it there is nothing there.  That sentence, presented as an absolute,  is meant to calm but it infuriates.

Go behind the word salad and you find…word salad.  There is no need to dialog over the past in order to get to the future. Law is based on facts and evidence. Trying to make things more fair for a less empowered person is a worthy goal.  But a dialog, when divorcing, should not be part of any process. The dialog was over, done, gone, or the marriage would have stuck. Collaborative in theory sounds good.  Like a Hallmark card in action. A sweet divorce. Remain friends.  Pop the bubbly and sing “This Land Is Your Land.” Lots of support people to do your thinking for you –  like exporting democracy so all can be free.  But it ends up just as much a quagmire as the Middle East because complex emotions and problems can’t be solved with a power imbalance in a method set up by attorneys for their benefit.


Like any new thing, innovators and early adopters are passionate about what they create and endorse. Collaborative law advocates are no different.

Pauline Tesler is a tireless spokesperson for the joy of collaboration. She is ubiquitous –  her murky and enthusiastic words are splashed over the internet in scholarly and not so scholarly articles.  But talk to her dissatisfied clients and you hear about her “inner litigator” surfacing. I don’t blame Tesler for the surfacing of the inner litigator. I blame Pauline Tesler and her ilk for hucksterism, boosterism, and shameless cult like manipulation of language and facts.


Ronalda Murphy, Ph.D., Harvard School of Law, and constitutional scholar confronts head on the problems of collaborative law.  According to Murphy, it demonizes law,sacrifices “just outcomes for the sake of efficiency” and ignores the problems of a powerimbalance. (“Is The Turn Toward Collaborative Law A Turn Away From Justice?”).  I find that it increases power imbalances.

Even though Pauline Tesler, guru of collaborative law, traipses all over the world indoctrinating lawyers with her version of CL, the truth is: her clients don’t like her – I know because they contact me and complain.

You cannot speak rationally with an irrational mind. There are no court reporters, laws are ignored because no one is watching. No wonder the victim is revictimized in a collaborative process.

Yes, a court trail is horrendous. So is being betrayed by a legal system under the guise of kinder and gentler. I’m tired of listening to disgruntled clients who were bamboozled by the marketing shlock of Tesler and ilk.  When you can use the law to protect your family and your money, why sit around with your manipulative bull shitter?

After a trial (I won) and an appeal (another win), my ex wanted to continue. He took us to collaborative. Michael Lowy, my collaborative law attorney and teacher of CL said, “We don’t have to follow the law, isn’t that great?”

No, Michael, it isn’t. Not following the law was what got us here in the first place and is why you were reported to the CA State Bar.

Jim and I eventually worked things out ourselves after the 6th Dist Court of Appeals came down hard on him. We talk, he pays what he owes (with negotiated interest – he asked to reduce  and I agreed) and life goes on.

Learn the law and THEN go to a lawyer – family, civil, criminal, whatever you need. Get your ducks in order AND IF YOU WOULDN’T FOLLOW TOM CRUISE TO SCIENTOLOGY DON’T FOLLOW TESLER TO COLLABORATIVE LAW.

Ann Bradley


  1. Here’s what I need to know: which is a better strategy when divorcing a man on the npd spectrum, placation or assertion? Keep them calm and feeling in control with a collaborative style, or stand up to him with a traditional divorce atty?

    • Collaborative doesn’t work well with manipulators. “Peace at any cost” works to their advantage. You, asserting rights in a collaboratives session, will be labeled as uncooperative in “the process”. Think about it: could you collaborate in daily life? Probably not. You can strategize and plan and be calm in a regular divorce and win. It does take the right attorney and you learning your rights and being strong. I’ve written on CL – here is a quote from one of my pages:

      “Ronalda Murphy, Ph.D., Harvard School of Law, and constitutional scholar confronts head on the problems of collaborative law.  According to Murphy, it demonizes law, sacrifices “just outcomes for the sake of efficiency” and ignores the problems of a power imbalance. (“Is The Turn Toward Collaborative Law A Turn Away From Justice?”).  I find that it increases power imbalances.

      A Santa Clara County attorney has a similar opinion. He believes collaborative is unfair to women since it is marketed to appeal to their sense of fairness and their natural dislike of adversarial issues at the same time they most need strong advocacy for economic reasons. He reasons that in most cases men have been in charge of finances, women are naive and might not realize assets have been hidden, and collaborative, with its win-win, touchy-feely, do discovery if you feel like it, but no one cares if you don’t – allows the continued dominance of the male to control finances.

      WHY I HATE COLLABORATIVE SO MUCH: Laying My Cards on the Table

      “I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people and I require the same of them.” John Wayne

      I will get into the specifics of how a system that mutated and morphed out of the legal system is bad for those involved. (Okay, exceptions noted. Nothing is all bad all the time and some have benefitted.) 

      But let’s look first at the mind of the lawyer in collaborative and why it is so damaging. To do so, review with me California’s stringent rules on confidentiality.  California’s Business & Profession Code Section 6068 states: “[i]t is the duty of an attorney to maintain inviolate the confidence, and at every peril  to himself or herself to preserve the secrets, of his or her client.”
      Further, California Rule of Professional Conduct R. 3-100(A) states: “[a] member shall not reveal information protected from disclosure by Business and Professions Code Section 6068, subdivision (e)[1] without the informed consent of the client, or as provided in paragraph (B) of this rule.” (Paragraph (B) is the imminent harm exception.)”

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