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Collaborative Divorce

What it is.

Collaborative Divorce puts emphasis on reaching an amicable resolution of your divorce dispute without the contentious and costly court battles. In a collaborative divorce, both parties hire attorneys who know how to handle a divorce in a nonadversarial way. The parties, and their attorneys, work together with a team of professionals, typically by scheduling a series of meetings to go through each issue and come up with solutions that each person can agree to.

The team of professionals involved in a collaborative divorce varies based on each couple’s specific needs. The team will typically include all or some of the following professionals, that the parties will jointly retain to advise on certain issues. The benefit of having jointly retained professionals in a collaborative setting is that the cost is being shared, typically equally, by the couple. This avoids each party obtaining their own expert and then arguing in court over whose expert is right.

Forensic Accountant.  An accountant can analyze the parties’ financial situation and advise as to settlement options, tax implications, and assist the parties with future financial planning.

Real Estate Professional. When there is real property involved in a divorce, the parties often need to agree how the residence is going to handled. This includes determining whether it is best for the parties to sell the residence or for one spouse to buy out the other spouse’s interest.  Having a real estate expert work with the couple to maximize the community’s interest will benefit both parties in the long run.

Parenting Coordinator. Co-parenting can be very difficult once parents are operating from two separate households. Having a parenting coordinator involved to assist the parents with navigating this new parenting dynamic allows each parent’s voice to be heard so that they can work together in the best interests of the children.

Collaborative Agreement means No-Court.

When spouses determine that they want to engage in the collaborative law process, the parties and the attorneys sign an agreement, committing themselves to work together towards a mutually acceptable settlement without court intervention. Both attorneys will be required to withdraw from the case if either spouse ends the process and wants to go to court.

This agreement gives both the clients and the attorneys inventive to continue working towards settlement given that if the process is unsuccessful, both parties will have to retain new attorneys and new experts, essentially starting from square one.

The Collaborative Divorce Process

A collaborative divorce is structured to minimize adversarial tactics by both the parties and the attorneys and to maximize the likelihood of a mutually acceptable settlement between the parties.  Below are the typical stages of the process:

Introduction: This is the initial meeting phase that has both clients meeting with their attorney and then the initial four-way session to set a timeline and schedule all further meetings to keep things on track. The initial four-way meeting will allow the parties to discuss who should be the team of professionals and talk about short and long-term goals.

Information Gathering.The clients and attorneys work together to prepare the required initial financial disclosures as well as discuss what additional financial information the parties need to resolve their case.

Outlining the Issues.  This stage involves outlining the issues and finding common ground where possible. This will allow the parties to highlight their sticking points and what areas are going to be easily resolved without further discussion.

Negotiation. Meetings will be scheduled to discuss certain areas of the case, which may require some of the professional team to be present. During this stage, the parties can focus on individual issues (i.e. parenting plan or property division) and take things one step at a time to slowly narrow down the issues.

Agreements. Once the tentative agreements are reached, they are memorialized  into a final settlement agreement, which each person will be able to thoroughly review with their individual attorney. The goal during this stage is not work backwards but to ensure the distinct language of the final settlement agreement is consistent with what each party understood the agreement to be.

Is A Collaborative Divorce for you?

A collaborative divorce requires both parties to be fully committed to settling their differences without court intervention.  The parties have to trust one another to be forthcoming with information and both parties have to be willing to put their emotions aside. In divorces involving domestic violence or infidelity, it can be much harder for the parties to work together given that the trust is severely broken. More often than not, court intervention will be required in these situations.

It is important to remember that if the collaborative law process is unsuccessful, both parties have to hire new attorneys and new experts. If this occurs, the process can be much more costly given that both parties have to start from scratch. However, if the collaborative law process is successful, then it will be much more cost effective and couples tend to come out of the divorce much happier with the outcomes.

Always ask your attorney if an alternative dispute option would work for your case.