What is a Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative divorce is a voluntary process in which couples, with the assistance of Collaborative divorce experts, work toward reaching a settlement on fair and equitable terms without the financial and emotional cost that often accompanies litigation. Through the collaborative divorce process, the parties choose to resolve the issues in their dissolution in a mutually beneficial way, outside of the court system. In a Collaborative Divorce, the parties are empowered to make their own decisions and customize the terms of an agreement based upon their particular needs and interests.
The collaborative divorce team includes the two parties, each having a lawyer specializing in family law, a collaboratively-trained neutral financial professional and a collaboratively-trained neutral mental health professional/facilitator/counselor/coach. The goal of the team is to assist the couple to complete their divorce process as efficiently, expeditiously and civilly as possible.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE?
1. Protect the Children
Collaborative family law is for parents who want to protect their children from becoming the collateral damage that may result from a difficult and litigated divorce or paternity dispute. The stress, conflict and uncertainty that are present in a divorce or separation can be risk factors for compromised child development.
The collaborative divorce is a kinder, gentler, and healthier divorce process, that offers divorcing or separating parents an opportunity to create their own post-separation parenting relationship. With the guidance and help of the Collaborative Team which includes a mental health professional/facilitator/counselor/coach, who is experienced with shared parenting plans, the participants craft a parenting plan together, prioritizing the children’s best interests. The parents have the opportunity to control the process, potentially mitigating the stress and uncertainty that comes from a contested divorce or paternity action.
During the collaborative divorce process, the parties learn to communicate respectfully and civilly, in a safe environment. They establish a method for communicating and negotiating changes in the parenting schedule, as the children’s needs change. Too often, a litigated divorce requires the intervention of attorneys or judges to effect such scheduling adjustments.
The value of privacy can hardly be overstated for most couples. The Collaborative Process allows couples facing divorce, and others who are terminating their relationships, to keep their family matters private. The collaborative legal solutions are is expressly designed to keep couples out of court and out of the public record.
The Collaborative Process usually commences before any action is filed in court. It is a private matter between the participants and their divorce professionals, guided by private contracts. There are no hearings or depositions. All meetings are held in the offices of the Collaborative Professionals. The Collaborative Process allows the participants to exchange information and documentation in a private forum with transparency and trust facilitated by their collaboratively-trained professional team.
When an agreement is reached, an uncontested dissolution of marriage or paternity action can be initiated by the participants. It is initiated by the filing of a petition with minimal information by one participant or by both participants jointly. Even then, efforts are made to minimize public record filings and to preserve privacy as much as possible.
3. Preserve Assets
The Collaborative Process helps participants reach a settlement in a cost-effective manner while attempting to preserve family resources. Making good financial decisions during the process is a crucial step toward achieving a positive and equitable outcome that each spouse or partner can live with.
One of the important attributes of the collaborative process is transparency in sharing financial information. The role of the Collaborative Neutral Financial in the Collaborative Process is to guide the parties’ financial decisions based on their current and expected financial condition and resources.
4. Move Forward
Litigated divorces are structured in such a way that there is often one “winner” and one “loser” in the end. In the Collaborative Process, there are no winners or losers. The spouses or partners work together toward an agreement that leaves them as whole as possible and minimizes emotional and financial trauma.
Do we sing “kumbaya” at the end? No. But since the family divorce lawyer, the divorce accountant, and the collaborative mental health professional work together in a non-adversarial manner to propose solutions, the participants have the opportunity to transition their relationship in as positive a manner as possible. With the work and dedication required, they can reach a settlement where their children thrive, and both parties can maintain themselves in their new situation.