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What is a Collaborative Divorce?

The typical divorce process can often be very difficult – both emotionally and financially – for the parties involved. However, for couples that find themselves willing to settle their disputes through open and honest negotiations with a team of professionals dedicated to doing what’s best for both of them, they can choose to do so through a collaborative divorce.

 

What is collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce allows the parties and their respective attorneys to resolve all of the issues related to their divorce (e.g. maintenance, child support, property division, allocation of parental responsibilities, etc.) without ever going into a courtroom until they are ready to present their final agreement to a Judge for entry. The concept of collaborative divorce is not new, but it has been used more recently because couples are seeing the many benefits of this nontraditional process that keeps them out of the courtroom and away from the typical adversarial process.

 

What is the process of collaborative divorce?

The first step is for each party to hire their own attorney. It is important each attorney has experience in collaborative divorce. Parties and attorneys are required to sign an agreement that prohibits them from litigating their case in court. This means that if parties reach a standstill in negotiations, they will need to retain new counsel and start the process over.  Consequently, this agreement creates a real incentive for the parties (and their counsels) to commit to the process until a final resolution can be reached.

 

As in a traditional divorce case, each party will meet with their respective attorney privately to discuss their goals and limits.  Following their individual meetings, each spouse and their attorneys will have a series of meetings designed to work out all of the fine details of the couple’s financial and parenting matters.  Throughout these meetings, both parties must remain willing to negotiate and compromise.  What separates the collaborative process from a regular settlement conference is that these meetings also include party-neutral professionals, such as accountants, financial advisors, and child support specialists.  The parties jointly choose these party-neutral professionals and they work for the benefit of both parties.  

 

What are the benefits of collaborative divorce?

Parties to a collaborative divorce have more ownership over the outcome of their case, rather than having a judge decide their fate.  As such, they are typically more satisfied with the result and are far less likely to return to court in the future.  Additionally, the process helps set the tone for a cooperative co-parenting relationship, which is an obvious benefit for the entire family.  

 

*It should be remembered that these are general guidelines and the specifics of the collaborative divorce process will ultimately depend on the facts and circumstances of each case.