"Collaborative Divorce--A True Amicable Divorce Process"

man and woman shaking hands as another woman looks on

What is Collaborative Divorce?

     Collaborative divorce is a legal process used by couples deciding to end their marriage. It also encompasses mutually consenting separations utilizing lawyers and sometimes, family professionals in an effort to avoid a certain outcome in court and to achieve a settlement that best suits the needs of all parties involved, including children.

     Some other names for collaborative divorce are collaborative practice, collaborative law, divorce, or family law. This process is entered into on a voluntary basis and requires the signing of a contract called the “participation agreement”. This contract binds each party to the collaborative process and disqualifies the lawyer’s right to represent either party in any further litigation related to family affairs. However, this process is entered into with the desired outcome in mind to avoid the uncertain outcome of a court proceeding and the underlying threat of contested litigation.

Collaborative Divorce Is Still Relatively New

     Collaborative divorce has been in the legal system officially since the 1990’s. Many professional organizations for the legal professional and layperson have cropped up out of this new movement.

     In addition to divorce, the collaborative process is designed to handle a broad range of family issues. Some of these issues could include the drawing up of pre and post-marital contracts. This pre-marital contract traditionally has been very oppositional in nature.

     Many couples are now finding they prefer to get things started on a better footing and draw up these documents together and consensually. Another collaborative process example of use is settling disputes between parents over child custody and visitation.

Collaborative Divorce vs. Mediation

     Collaborative divorce is different from mediation. The features below help identify the difference between the two processes.

      -   is informal.
      -   is flexible.
      -   is inexpensive compared to the costs of litigation.
      -   requires a certified mediator, which is a neutral person that helps you negotiate.
      -  requires no obligation to hire legal counsel or other advisor.
     -   is efficient requiring less time for litigation.
     -   is more efficient than litigation.
     -   is less expensive than litigation.
May be required by certain states as part of the divorce process (Each state is different, please check your state’s laws and requirements on mediation.)

Collaborative divorce:

    -  is informal
    -  is flexible
    -  is entered into voluntarily
    -  the spouses are represented by collaborative attorneys
    -  both spouses and attorneys sign a “no court” agreement which means attorneys must withdraw if case goes to court
    -  is more efficient than litigation
    -  is less expensive than litigation

Five Ways to Cut Down Conflict and Divorce Expense

     There are five ways collaboration can cut down on the conflict and expense of divorce:

     1. You and your spouse can cut down the expense and considerably simplify the divorce process when you agree on legal procedures.

     2. The collaborative divorce process helps you to stabilize your situation through a temporary agreement.

     3. It is voluntary and allows for the exchange of all necessary information needed for the final outcome.

     4. This process allows you to negotiate a settlement agreeable to both parties.

     5.  Both parties can come to an agreement on how to handle post divorce issues, such as who gets custody of the children on certain holidays and weekends.

      When you finally reach an agreement, you will eventually have contact with a family court judge so he/she can sign the agreement. The collaboration process allows you the opportunity to keep that particular contact brief and manageable. The legal portion of the divorce is a simple, uncontested procedure. This part of the procedure doesn’t require a trial or litigious hearings on points of evidence and pretrial maneuvers such as interrogatories and disclosure.

     There are many advocates for this process and there are those who oppose this process. Ultimately, it is a choice you should make because the outcome will benefit all parties involved. Whether you use the collaborative approach from the beginning of your divorce or for only part of it, you will save money and time. This process allows both parties to navigate through the divorce process with dignity, self-esteem, and moral standards intact.