What is a Collaborative Divorce and is it right for me?
You may have been thinking about ending your marriage for a long time. Things have not gotten better no matter how many times the two of you have talked about it and worked on it. You respect each other, but you no longer want to be married. You do not agree on much, but you do agree that you do not want to tear each other down during a messy, emotionally and financially devastating divorce process.
If this sounds familiar to you, the collaborative divorce process could be right for you and your spouse. Collaborative Divorce means that your divorce does not have to happen in the courtroom. It does not have to be ugly. You can work together to end your marriage in a reasonable manner that gives you both some control over the process with the help of professionals to guide you. Using the Collaborative Law process, you can take steps to avoid the hostility, costs of litigation, and lack of control that can accompany the divorce process.
If you have children, a Collaborative Divorce can help you and your spouse exit the marriage with a solid foundation for working together in your new roles as co-parents and to craft solutions that will be more tailored to what may work for your family than what would be decided inside a courtroom.
What is the Collaborative Law process?
Collaborative Law is the foundation for a Collaborative Divorce and is a specific formal legal process that is guided by attorneys who ate trained in Collaborative Law and Mediation in family law. There are also neutral professionals utilized in the Collaborative Law process that works alongside the attorneys and parties as needed that help form the “Collaborative Law Team,” which is the attorneys and the professionals assisting the couple through divorce. The team has the common goal of helping the couple move through the divorce process fairly, equitably, and without conflict. Aside from the attorneys, the team may commonly include financial experts (Certified Divorce Financial Analysts, CPAs, or others), mental health professionals that can include therapists and in some cases child specialists, parenting coaches, a relator, and others as needed.
Part of the Collaborative Law process includes a commitment to openness. The parties are required to be open and voluntarily disclose assets and all information that is relevant to the divorce process. In a traditional divorce process, there may be formal discovery requests to obtain information and voluntariness is not always a hallmark of the process. There is no formal discovery in Collaborative Law. In the Collaborative process, he voluntary sharing of all relevant information is required to be successful and to participate. This does not work for everyone.
Finally, the parties are required to agree that if they cannot reach a settlement through the collaborative process, they will need to obtain new counsel. An attorney who has represented a party in the collaborative process can typically not act as counsel for them in litigation in any manner in the future.
How does a Collaborative Divorce happen?
Your divorce process will take place in a series of in person meetings. There will always be at least four people present at all meetings from the Collaborative Team: The couple and their two attorneys. Many times, other professional neutrals on the team will also be present as needed. Before you can begin the process the clients and their attorneys will all sign a Collaborative Participation Agreement, which is also called a “Four Ways Agreement.” One the agreement is in place; the process can begin.
There are four stages in the process. The first stage will be compromised of building the team that will support the couple through the process. Once the Collaborative Law Team is in place, the first stage will also include gathering all information that will be relevant in the divorce as far as financials, real property, information about parenting, records, and so forth. The second stage in the process is where the work begins as the team dives in to work together and craft different option for settlement. There may be multiple options or there may be one clear path. The options will be dependent upon the individual situation and the needs of the parties. Once there are options, the third stage will begin. Here there will be agreements drafted to reflect the options for settlement. Further, the team will work with the couple in multiple meetings if needed until all issues are resolved and all paperwork is signed. Finally, once all paperwork is complete after an agreement has been signed, the fourth stage takes place. In this stage, the paperwork is submitted to the court and the divorce is finalized.
Should I try Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative Law Divorce is not for everyone but can be an excellent option for some. The Collaborative process is a very good option for couples who want to remain friendly after a divorce either because they have children, or even if not, and want to avoid the negativity, hostility that the collective uncertainty the divorce process can bring. Even for those who do not plan to remain friendly, it is a good option for those who wish to adjust to new roles as amicable co-parents after divorce or legal separation. The Collaborative Law process takes the “winning” and “losers” idea out of divorce that the fighting in litigation can bring. As any responsible family law attorney will tell you, there are no true “winners” in divorce no matter what process you use. Collaborative Divorce crystalizes this and takes it off the table for you in advance.
While Collaborative Divorce can be a helpful and even positive process, it is truly nor for everyone and it is important to consider whether it is for you. It is important to consider that the Collaborative process can be costly if there are multiple meetings with multiple processionals. It is also not often a fast process and can go on longer than other processes due to the need for the meetings, scheduling for everyone, and no other avenues. Perhaps most importantly, if one party does not feel comfortable being seated in the same room as the other and participating in the process directly with them and needs more space and distance during the divorce and to receive advice and support behind closed doors only, Collaborative Divorce will be difficult. Where there is no trust between spouses, Collaborative Divorce can be challenging and at times, impossible, given the need for transparency voluntarily. Narcissistic or controlling people can attempt to use the process to control the other party knowing there is no court process or immediate remedy available. Finally, it is critical to keep in mind that if the Collaborative process fails, the parties will have to start over with new attorneys at a greater expense.
At Dellino Law Group, we take the responsibility to screen cases for Collaborative process seriously and believe it is a process that works well for some, but not for all. We generally do not recommend the Collaborative Law Divorce process for anyone where there is a history of domestic violence by either party against one another or any children in the family, significant mental health issues, abusive use of conflict history, narcissist and control issues, or serious or untreated substance abuse history.
To find out if Collaborative Divorce if right for you, the best option is to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys who handles Collaborative cases. Our firm is uniquely positioned to offer Collaborative, Cooperative, and Litigation representation. Learn more about the differences between collaborative and cooperative divorce here. We want you to have the least stressful divorce process and make the most informed decision as possible. This does not look the same for everyone. Come and chat with us to talk about your situation so we can help you find your best oath forward. If Collaborative Law is right for you, we will work with you to build the very best possible Collaborative Law Team and develop your strategy to best work for your family.
We have the compassion, knowledge, and expertise in collaborative divorce to assist you effectively and collaboratively as you enter the next phase of your life. For more information, Contact us today by filling out our quick online form, or give us a call at 206-659-6839 to let us know how we can help.