Collaborative divorce benefits both spouses

Collaborative divorce:

  • helps make an agreement that is right for both parties
  • addresses financial, legal, emotional and parenting needs
  • protects each person’s legal rights, concerns and interests
  • encourages mutual respect
  • emphasizes the needs of children and helps build a constructive relationship for co-parenting
  • avoids a costly trial in court with its associated emotions and negativity
  • gives both spouses control over the process
  • provides for open and honest communication
  • uses a problem-solving approach
  • prepares both spouses for new lives

 

Checklist: Is collaborative divorce right for you and your family?

Divorce is a sensitive and personal matter. While no single approach is right for everyone, many couples find the no-court collaborative process a welcome alternative to the often destructive, uncomfortable aspects of conventional divorce.

Answer the following questions to find out if a collaborative divorce, rather than a litigated divorce, is best for you and your family.

  • Do you want emotional, financial and legal guidance through your divorce?
  • Do you have children and want to be sure their needs are adequately addressed?
  • Do you want to keep divorce costs under control?
  • Do you wish to keep your finances and personal information confidential rather than airing all these details in public?
  • Are you more interested in moving on with your life than a long, drawn-out court case?
  • Do you want to control your own future and not rely on who has the best attorney?
  • Do you want to be sure that members of your family have what they need to move forward with their lives?
  • Do you want to lessen arguments when making decisions with your partner about your children and their future?
  • Do you want to decrease emotional battles, anger, upset and fighting?
  • Do you want to preserve the emotional health of your children during and after the divorce?
  • Do you want to be treated with respect and dignity during your divorce process?
  • Do you want your children to be able to invite both their parents to all the special events in their lives?

Choosing a collaborative divorce means you value an approach that focuses on the needs of your entire family. If you answered "Yes" to most of the questions listed above, a collaborative divorce process is right for you.

 

10 Things to Know about Collaborative Divorce by Cynthia Swanson

Widely quoted research shows that 1 out of 2 first marriages, 2 out of 3-second marriages, and 3 out of 4 third marriages will end in divorce. Other statistics show that women and children post-divorce are the largest segment of the population entering poverty each year.

Divorce lawyers so often say to their clients, “You’ll be happier in the long run if you can settle this case yourselves. And don’t forget, your checkbook is likely to take
less of a hit.” One way to help parties settle cases themselves is through collaborative divorce. This process empowers the parties to resolve their legal disputes without judges or magistrates making decisions for them. It provides them with specially trained collaborative lawyers, mental health and financial professionals to educate, support and guide them in reaching balanced, respectful and lasting agreements. And it offers the parties a safe and dignified environment to reduce the conflict and minimize its impact on them, their children, their family, and their lives. Collaborative divorce is a private process. It does not depend for its existence or its procedure upon any rule or statute or case law. It exists because parties agree for it to exist and they agree how it will proceed. Essentially, the parties agree not to go to court until their case is completely resolved, and then only for the court to adopt their agreement and actually divorce them. Here are 10 things to know about the collaborative divorce process:

  1. To begin the process, the parties sign a collaboration agreement which provides that neither one will go to court until the whole case has been settled between them. It also provides for the rest of these things in this list.

  2. The process is client-driven. It seeks creative outcomes, not pat legal solutions, or adversarial “splitting the baby” outcomes. Pretty much anything that the parties agree to will become part of their agreement, and they will ask the court to adopt it, even if the court – without the agreement of the parties - has no authority to make such an order. Providing for the payment of college expenses for adult children is a prime example, but so is providing for an unequal distribution of property, or for unusual spousal support arrangements. 

  3. The parties agree to keep the process private and confidential. They will not go blabbing to all their friends, post collaborative meeting updates on Facebook, or otherwise publicize  the process. This is not to say that parties can’t talk to their trusted friends and family members or run things by other professionals with whom they have relationships. But the idea is to keep this pretty much between the two people who are making the decisions. This shows respect for the process, respect for the collaborative team, and respect for the other spouse.

  4. The role of the team of professionals is to facilitate the process, not make decisions. This should be true whether the case is collaborative or not - it’s the parties’ case, not the lawyers’ case, after all. Even more so in the collaborative cases, however, lawyers should not be invested in the outcome, financially or emotionally, and they should not be “outcome oriented” (want to win). Mental health professionals (coaches) are there to help the parties move through the divorce process and to help them look out for their children, not to “cure” them. The financial professional is not a “hired gun” for one party or the other, but instead is a neutral professional to help maximize the financial benefit to both parties. When they both have the same information, they can make the best decisions for both of them.

  5. In order for this to happen, all team members have to work together constructively – and transparently. There can’t be any triangulation, any going behind one another’s back, nor any secreting of information. When one party starts feeling like he is being left out, that her needs are being brushed aside, or that they are not receiving the benefit of the whole team’s advice, this does not bode well for the process. In order for the process to be transparent, the team must fully disclose all important and relevant information, and no secrets can be kept.

  6. Because all decisions will be made jointly and with both parties and their welfare in mind, the parties must come willing to listen, willing to talk honestly, and willing to compromise.

  7. In addition, there cannot be any unilateral action taken by anybody. All important and relevant decisions are made jointly, and all important and relevant actions are approved first by the team.

  8. The parties cannot take advantage of mistakes. This is a natural result of the transparency and respect for the parties and the process.

  9. If the parties do give up on the collaborative process, none of the professional team members can continue to help either party in the resulting litigation. That’s the caveat of the collaborative process – if the process breaks down completely and one or both parties decide they must go to court, then all the professionals who have been involved with the parties must terminate their involvement and the parties must start over with new lawyers, new experts, etc. This is usually a pretty big incentive to keep the process going, compromise, be creative, and accomplish settlement.

  10. The cost of the process can really vary. If you think of having a two-hour meeting with two attorneys, a mental health professional, and a CPA all in attendance, you can just see the dollar signs dancing around and hear the ca-ching sound! However, if you think of the training, experience, and expertise being brought to bear in that meeting, you can see how much progress can be made in one two-hour meeting. So, yes, it can be fee-intensive initially, but if the case is settled in a few two-hour meetings, the overall fees will be much lower than a full-blown trial on financial and custody issues.

 

Other Resources:

The International Association of Collaborative Professionals has a great website with lots of information about collaborative divorce, as well as other collaborative practices. Click on the following link to learn more. www.collaborativepractice.com.

Please contact one of our trained professionals. Since each professional sets his or her own policies on consultation and fees, interested parties are encouraged to review the Trained Professionals page and call individually for more information.

Click here to read T. Boone Pickens thoughts on Collaborative Divorce

Follow this link to hear testimonials from persons who chose Collaborative Divorce: http://www.tampabaycollaborative.com/testimonials.aspx

Follow this link to access a series of Podcasts discussing Collaborative Divorce: www.divorcewithoutdestruction.org