1. What is collaborative divorce?
Collaborative divorce is a family law process in which a couple who has decided to end their marriage is guided by their respective attorneys, and sometimes other specialists, to reach a mutually agreeable divorce settlement involving spousal maintenance, child custody and/or property settlement issues.
The collaborative process is also appropriate for parents who share custody, couples who want prenuptial contracts, as well as probate, employment, intellectual property and personal injury disputes.
2. How does it work?
First, both attorneys should be trained in the collaborative process. The couple signs a “Participation Agreement” that shows mutual commitment and disqualifies their attorneys from representing them should the matter later go to court.
Through a series of meetings, the couple determines and prioritizes their respective needs and interests. The couple may choose to have child therapists, divorce coaches, accountants or spiritual advisors present to offer guidance. Or, the couple may choose to have no one other than their attorneys present. They then work together to make financial arrangements, share responsibilities and/or coordinate schedules as necessary.
3. What if we change our minds?
If a couple decides to resolve their divorce issues, they may postpone the divorce without any papers having been filed in court. The cost of the process, the impact on the family, and the risk of publicity are all significantly minimized.
4. What if we try it and it fails?
Collaborative divorce is successful because it uses cooperative negotiation. However, collaborative divorces can still fall apart. A couple may reach impasse and decide to take their divorce to court. When this happens, both parties’ attorneys must withdraw from representation. The emotional and financial impact of starting over with new attorneys to litigate the matter is one incentive to seeing things through to the end of a collaborative divorce.
5. Are certain kinds of situations NOT good for collaborative divorce?
Situations that involve domestic violence, addiction, untreated mental illness or intention to cause emotional or financial pain are not good candidates for collaborative divorce and may be better suited to arbitration or litigation.