If you and your partner are having trouble resolving conflicts about legally separating or divorcing and niether of you want to drag out the entire matter in an expensive and time-consuming court case, you may want to consider collaborative divorce.
A collaborative divorce is a positive option for couples who may not be able to negotiate all of the details of their legal separation or without outside help, but can cooperate well enough with the the assistance of third parties that they don’t need a judge to make the decision for them, either.
How a Collaborative Divorce Works
First, each party hires a divorce attorney specially trained in the collaborative process. Then, the couple must agree to communicate via non-adversarial, interest-based negotiation, to keep dialogue constructive, and to rely on their attorneys to guide them through this process. Typically, the couple will sign a “no court” agreement stipulating that they will not go to court or threaten to go to court during the collaborative process, but instead will utilize the process to reach an acceptable and mutually beneficial divorce settlement.
Not required, but recommended is that each party hires a coach who is specially trained in the collaborative process. The coach helps keeps the parties on track especially through the emotional issues of the process. The parties are also highly advised to hire a financial consultant who helps determine what financial information is needed and how that financial information can be used to complete the separation or divorce agreement and can advise as to the tax consequences of proposals and solutions.
Each party will meet separately with their attorney initially, and then together with both attorneys in what is called a “four-way” meeting. In these meetings, the exchange of information is voluntary and open. The purpose is to allow each party to share how they feel about the issues at hand, in their own words, while keeping both parties’ interests in mind. Sometimes, a neutral specialist may sit in on meetings to help with matters such as finances or child custody.
The individuals themselves must come to an agreement, not the attorneys. The attorneys are only facilitators. Once the couple comes to agreement on all issues, they may file for an uncontested divorce.
If, for some reason, the couple chooses to exit the collaborative process, they must file for a contested divorce with new attorneys; and anyone who worked with them in the collaborative process can no longer be involved or act as witness in court. If business appraisals have been obtained, or reports, those cannot be used either.
How to Make It Successful
One of the greatest benefits of collaborative divorce is that the courts are not involved until the final settlement is filed. Another is that it reduces the time, cost, and stress a couple experiences in typical divorce litigation. For these reasons, it’s important to make sure your collaborative process is successful.
One important step in making sure your collaboration is successful is to seek out an appropriate attorney. A group called the Northern Nevada Collaborative Divorce Professionals (NNCDP) is an organization of professionals bringing together lawyers, divorce coaches (trained mental health professionals) and financials experts (CPA’s, CDFA, and others) as a team to work with couples to resolve their disputes respectfully.
In the normal divorce model, the lawyers are adversaries and the parties each often hires his own separate expert. In the collaborative divorce model, it can be financially less costly as the team works together to get to a settlement that everyone can live with.
The adversary model involving court is often trumatizing especially if minor children are involved.
Another important step is making sure your spouse is truly willing to go through this process with you. It doesn’t matter if you hold different viewpoints so much as it matters that you can speak frankly, hear each other’s wishes, and work toward a mutual solution. If both of you are able and willing to do this, then collaborative divorce may be right for you.
Most people find the collaborative divorce model to be more satisfying and that each party is more likely to comply with the terms of the agreement since it has not been forced on them, but rather each party was part of the solution.