What do I need to know about collaborative divorce?

Couples facing divorce should consider the collaborative process as a beneficial option to litigation.

When a marriage is ending and a couple is contemplating divorce, there are options to consider. Namely, what type of divorce process would be the most beneficial? Often people think about divorce in terms of a courtroom drama, one that is very adversarial and contentious. There are circumstances where litigation is the best option; however, it is not the only option for a couple looking to reach a divorce settlement.

Divorce is an emotionally difficult experience, but the collaborative approach provides a more cooperative environment that can help both spouses resolve issues and preserve their relationship. This is particularly important when children are involved and an ongoing parenting partnership is vital to their growth. When deciding if collaborative divorce is right for you, there are many questions to consider. This article aims to help answer some of those questions.

What is the typical collaborative process?

The process may be different depending on the parties and the issues that need to be resolved in order to reach a divorce agreement. The very basic process consists of hiring attorneys for representation, making a commitment to work together throughout the process, creating a team to help resolve issues (professionals if needed), going through negotiations and creating a divorce agreement. An attorney should be consulted for a more detailed discussion of what to expect during the collaborative process.

Who is involved in the process?

There is a team approach to resolving issues through negotiations. Typically, the process will involve each spouse and an attorney for each spouse. Depending on the issues to be resolved, neutral third-party professionals may also be involved; some examples include a financial planner, a mental health professional and a child advocate.

What are the benefits?

Some benefits may include cost savings (as compared to traditional litigation), time savings, working together to create a custom solution and a better future relationship for the soon to be ex-spouses.

Who shouldn't use the collaborative process?

The collaborative process is not appropriate when there is an imbalance of power between the parties or any instances of mental illness, physical or emotional abuse, substance abuse or intimidation.

How does it differ from mediation?

In mediation, a certified third-party neutral facilitates negotiations between the parties and manages the process. The attorney's for each party are usually not present during the mediation. The mediator may also act as a go-between for the parties during the process.

What happens if we can't reach an agreement?

Both parties and their attorneys must agree to resolve all issues through negotiation when the collaborative process begins. If the parties cannot reach a divorce agreement or the process must end for any reason, the parties will have to litigate the divorce. At this point, both attorneys must withdraw as counsel and the spouses will have to retain different attorneys for representation in litigation.

To some, collaborative law seems like a new concept. However, at Cross, Pennamped, Woolsey & Glazier, P.C., we have been using alternative dispute resolution for the past four decades. Our attorneys are experienced in the collaborative approach to divorce and can guide you through the process. We will help you determine what divorce approach and option is the right fit for your situation, answer your questions and help you reach the resolution that is the best for your family.