Divorce is a time of upheaval. There are countless decisions to make, literal and figurative moves to consider, new schedules to adopt, and much more. If children are in the mix, things can seem even more uncertain and pressing during an already stressful time.
At its core, divorce is a time of rebirth and rebuilding. You are moving on from the past to the present with new priorities and a new vision. It’s easy to lose track of that perspective while in the middle of protracted divorce litigation.
If you spend the entirety of the divorce process fighting tooth and nail with your spouse over every little piece of furniture, pet, and dish, you will most certainly feel differently than if you were able to end things more quickly and in a more cooperative fashion.
That spirit of cooperation can be found in a process called collaborative divorce.
What is it?
The collaborative divorce process is essentially one where spouses go from adversaries to teammates. The spouses work together with a trained professional team to help them make decisions and determinations about their future, instead of “battling it out” before a judge who, knowledgeable as he or she may be, might not truly understand their circumstances. This leads to more attractive, workable, and lasting solutions that the spouses follow because they have true ownership in them.
How does it work?
A collaborative divorce starts with each spouse having his or her own legal counsel. It’s helpful for everyone if the attorneys themselves are well-versed in collaborative law, as it involves a very different mindset than traditional adversarial litigation.
From there, a team of divorce professionals can come together to help the parties handle such varied issues as legal decision-making authority and parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance, and property division. Team members might include neutral financial professionals (such as accountants or financial planners), a mediator, a child psychologist or behaviorist to help make parenting time decisions that are in the child’s best interests, and others.
Collaborative divorces are predicated upon the foundation that no one wants the matter to go to court. This premise is so important that spouses in a collaborative divorce will sign documents stating that, should the process fail to resolve matters, the collaborative attorneys (along with all other professionals on the collaborative team) must withdraw, and new counsel must take their place in a litigated proceeding.
What are the benefits?
Traditional divorce has its place. It isn’t best for everyone, though. Collaboration itself has many benefits, chief among them:
- Monetary savings, as it’s often less expensive than an adversarial process
- Efficiency; it’s often faster than traditional litigation
- A sense of personal ownership over the results
- Privacy, since there are no court appearances to become part of the public record
- The ability to preemptively set out procedures to handle future necessary modifications or revisions
Collaborative law might not work for everyone. It likely isn’t appropriate for situations where the parties are not willing to openly and freely to work together, even with the support of a professional team. Only you and your attorney can figure out if this process is best for your unique situation.