Collaborative Divorce

Divorces are never easy.

Not only do they take a toll on the emotional wellbeing of the couple, but they also eat into the couple’s savings. And that’s not counting the time spent with the back and forth between the couple’s lawyers before they can reach a settlement. So, is there a way to make these processes easier?

Well, most scenarios feature three types of divorces. In the first type, the couple cannot agree on anything and need the legal system to help them get through the divorce. The second type involves couples who are sure what they want and have already agreed on the settlement before approaching the lawyers. All they need is legal help in drafting and filing the court papers to finalize the divorce.

And then there is the third kind – the middle ground. Such a couple agrees on some things but cannot seem to agree on some pertinent issues. However, the couple does not want to go to court and needs legal help to sort through their issues. Does this describe you? If yes, a collaborative divorce process can help you get through this!

What is a collaborative divorce?

Often, divorces feature couples who are out to fight tooth and nail to secure their finances, child custody, and other issues that bring out a range of emotions that can drag on the processes.

With a collaborative divorce, the aim is to get to the root of the issues and address this to help the couple move forward amicably. By bringing in dispute resolution methods such as mediation and negotiations, the attorneys involved can help the couple view their points from each other’s perspective.

Interestingly, even the court system leans on these alternative dispute resolution methods. Some even make it a prerequisite to showing up in court to help speed the processes along. However, as much as resolving disputes outside the court system might be the best option for you, your spouse also has to be on board with it. Without full support from both parties, attorneys cannot help you address your legal concerns without hitting a dead end.

Should you use a collaborative divorce?

As long as your partner is willing to try something other than the court processes to reach a resolution, collaborative divorce offers an array of benefits. They include:

  • Spending less money: Did you know that alternative dispute resolution methods are much cheaper than going to court? With faster processes and a reduced back and forth between one attorney and the other, you can spend less money, making this approach more cost-effective.
  • Preserving the relationship: With litigation, you can end up feeling disgruntled and unhappy with the way your partner handled the divorce. These feelings of resentment can linger for years and even trickle to other members of the family. With collaborative divorce processes, you can deal with each other directly and avoid souring the relationship for good.
  • Spending less time: You can negotiate with each other without involving several intermediaries, enabling you to spend less time decoding and encoding messages. With less paperwork to go around, you spend more time addressing the actual issues and do away with the long delays that are typical with litigation.
  • Having an informal discussion: Once you take out the whole ‘your honor’ aspect and deal with each other personally, you can talk out your issues. Interacting with each other without fear of being in contempt of the court allows you to express how you truly feel and hear the other person out. This honesty guides the process and removes many barriers that would have otherwise delayed the processes.
  • Negotiating the best outcome: You will both have a chance to tailor the result to what works for you. Unlike with litigation, where the banging of the gavel dictates the way forward, you can decide how you will handle the settlement. Additionally, you have more leeway to decide how you will deal with disputes that arise once you have reached your settlement.

Generally, a collaborative divorce allows you and your partner to work out the kinks in your divorce in an open and safe environment. Additionally, it enables you to get through the processes fast and start healing instead of dragging on the pain.

How does a collaborative divorce work?

Let’s break down what you should expect if you and your partner choose to go through with this process:

  • Both you and your partner need to separately hire an attorney who understands alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods and is willing to employ these in negotiations. Please make sure that you find an attorney who leans on ADR more than litigation. Otherwise, the attorney can bring so much heat to the room that the communication takes an aggressive turn.
  • Before coming to the negotiation table, you should meet your attorney privately and let them know what you expect of the negotiations. While you will have to compromise, this is the time to set the limits. For example, if you want joint/physical custody, you can let your attorney know how much access you want to your children. You may state that you need to spend at least three holidays with your children and that’s the lowest you can go and maybe your partner can take the other holidays and birthdays. It’s a negotiation, and you want to leave some wiggle room, but with limits. Your partner will have a similar meeting with their attorney.
  • Once everyone has been briefed, you can now bring the negotiations to the table, featuring you and your partner with attorneys by your side. In most cases, specialists will also be present to help deal with their areas of expertise. For example, with a child custody matter, you may include a child custody specialist. Anyone involved in the negotiation must be impartial and must approach the issues with objectivity to ensure nobody feels dissatisfied with the processes.
  • The negotiations can take two directions. In the first one, the parties agree, sign a contract and proceed with the divorce. However, where parties cannot seem to agree on the best way forward, the second direction comes into the picture- necessitating a licensed mediator. A mediator understands the law and has undergone training to help people see eye to eye, thus helping the couple bridge the gap and meet somewhere in the middle.
  • Once the negotiations have succeeded, the attorneys and couple sign a ‘no court’ agreement. As such, if the couple decides to head to litigation, the attorneys cannot take part in the matter and have to withdraw from the proceedings.
  • The divorce papers can now be signed and filed at a family court, putting an end to the process. Based on the steps above, this final stage should be effortless.

With everyone on board, your divorce process should be this manageable.

Should you get a collaborative divorce?

A collaborative divorce is only successful if both parties agree to it and embrace it without any inhibitions. If any one of you walks into the negotiation table with a chip on your back or with the aim of finally litigating, the chances of success dramatically lower. You have to ensure that you are both willing and able to discuss your divorce without resorting to aggressive measures. Otherwise, you are better off litigating and settling the matter in court.

All the best!

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