How Does It Differ from Traditional Divorce Proceedings? What Are the Benefits of Collaborative Divorce?
Your marriage isn’t working and it’s clear that it’s in everyone’s best interests to get a divorce. But you don’t want or need a highly contested and bitter legal battle. Maybe there’s no real animosity with your spouse. Maybe you have no children and little or few assets. Maybe you want to maintain positive relations for the sake of your children. Divorce does not have to be an intensely adversarial process. With the collaborative divorce process, you can work cooperatively with your attorney and your spouse to find mutually beneficial solutions to child custody, support, and property division.
What Is Collaborative Divorce?
The collaborative divorce process seeks to alleviate or remove the acrimony from a marital dissolution by having the parties work together to resolve any differences. When the parties to a divorce decide to use the collaborative process, they agree from the outset to work with each other, and with their attorneys, to find solutions to custody, support, and property issues, and to do so without the involvement or intervention of the court. As a general rule, any controversies in a collaborative divorce are settled through mediation and negotiation.
In the collaborative process, it’s fairly common for parties to mutually agree to retain outside experts to resolve specific issues. For example, a family counselor may be hired to determine the best custody and visitation arrangements, or a financial planner or accountant may be brought in to structure a property settlement. Because the parties have both consented to hire the specialist, the findings of that specialist are treated as binding.
Why Should You Consider the Collaborative Divorce Process?
The collaborative divorce process offers a number of tangible and intangible benefits:
- It usually saves time—You won’t have to get on the court’s docket, wait for hearings, go through discovery, and engage in many of the other, often slow, aspects of the traditional divorce process.
- It typically costs less—Because you won’t be paying attorneys to file motions and appear in court, and because most issues will be resolved quickly, you’ll incur lower attorney fees.
- There’s a win-win result—If one spouse feels like a winner after a divorce, and the other feels like a loser, a lot of anger and animosity can remain. That can make it difficult to work with your ex-spouse after the divorce, e.g., if you have to see each other in relation to child custody or visitation. The goal of collaborative divorce is to settle matters in a way that’s agreeable to both parties.
- The parties control the outcome—You won’t be at the mercy of the court and potentially subject to an unsatisfactory divorce decree.
- It’s low stress—A collaborative divorce can help you move forward with minimal anxiety or recrimination.
How Do You Engage in a Collaborative Divorce?
The process is pretty straightforward. Both parties hire separate legal counsel and specify to counsel that they want a collaborative divorce. The parties then sign a “no court” agreement, under which the attorneys for the parties must withdraw from the case if either party takes any issue to the court. The parties and their attorneys then schedule a series of meetings where the parties and their counsel are present. When all issues are resolved, the terms of the divorce are put in writing and submitted to the court for approval. The court then issues an order stating the agreed-upon terms.
What Happens If Either Party Tries to Involve the Court?
The terms of the “no court” agreement typically state that, should either party request the involvement of the court, the attorneys must excuse themselves from the case and the parties must retain new counsel.