Is A Collaborative Divorce Right For You?
When trying to decide if a collaborative divorce process is right for you and your spouse, there are two key questions both of you need to answer: One, how much do you want to avoid a potentially long a costly court battle? And two, how open are you both to the idea of sitting across from each for potentially long stretches to discuss your separation?
If the answer to question one is “very much” and the answer to question two is “fairly” or better, than a collaborative divorce might be a good option for you both.
What Is A Collaborative Divorce?
A collaborative divorce is exactly what it sounds like, you and your spouse sit down with a chosen group of professionals and collaboratively negotiate and agree to the terms of your divorce. The process is similar to divorce mediation, but without the mediator.
A collaborative divorce is typically facilitated by divorce attorneys with experience in non-adversarial divorce proceedings and each spouse and their respective lawyers work together in “four-way” meetings.
The Collaborative Divorce Team
In addition to each spouse’s respective attorney, there may be other collaborative divorce professionals that you or your lawyers will bring in to help with facilitating the process. This may include people like:
- Divorce Coach: Typically, a divorce coach will be a mental health professional who meets with the spouse before the process begins and then, if needed, between four-way meetings to debrief and plan for the next negotiating session.
- Financial Specialist: One of the benefits of collaborative divorce is the cost savings from using only one financial person, rather than having each party hire an expert and battle over whose expert is right about the best way to divide property.
- Child Specialist: A child specialist can meet with both the parents and the children, and give an assessment of the children’s needs and advice about how best to meet them in the context of custody and visitation.
While it may seem counterintuitive, using one or all of professionals mentioned above can actually make the divorce cheaper. Attorneys—even good ones trained in collaborative divorce—don’t have some of the specialized skills you might need to move things along.
Collaborative Divorce Agreement
To begin the collaborative divorce process, spouses and their attorneys usually sign a “no court” agreement at the outset of the proceedings. This commits everyone to collectively toward a mutually acceptable settlement, and often requires that both attorneys withdraw from the case if either spouse ends the process and goes to court.
The “no court” agreement is a strong incentive to follow through with the collaborative process. If your lawyer and other professional advisers are all required to withdraw from the case, going to court will require you to hire a new team and get everyone up to speed for the litigation. This will be enormously expensive and time consuming.
Collaborative Divorce And The Law
In a collaborative divorce situation, the law is still important, but unlike going to court, it is only one factor in the overall process.
In order to reach an agreement that is best for your, your spouse, and your children, other factors like individual goals, priorities, and extenuating circumstances all come into play and are treated with more weight than they would be in court.
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