By Mike Stetzer
Collaborative divorce is when spouses work together to reduce conflicts, which may develop during divorces involving litigation. Rather than going to a divorce court where a judge makes the final determination on important issues like child custody, child support, alimony and property division, couples come to a divorce settlement rather than fighting over the issues in divorce court.
During a collaborative divorce, a group of professionals who help the couple come to an agreement. This team structure typically includes a separate divorce lawyer and mental health professional or coach for both the husband and wife, a neutral financial advisor and a child advocate, if the couple has children. Each team member works to help the couple come to a divorce settlement. After the couple negotiates and agrees to the settlement, the divorce court has the final approval.
Under the terms of a collaborative divorce, both parties must agree to abide to certain rules. This participation agreement states that the couple will not take the divorce to court and will act in good faith with the best interest of the child in mind. The couples must also agree to not hide any information or take advantage of any mistakes made by the other spouse. All discussions during divorce settlement meetings must be kept confidential.
The participation agreement essentially is a contract that the parties and divorce attorneys in the collaborative divorce must sign to participate. Divorce lawyers must sign a pledge saying they will not litigate the divorce process and will remove themselves if the settlement process breaks down and requires litigation. In those instances, each spouse has to find a new divorce lawyer.
Collaborative divorces have several benefits when compared to standard divorce litigation. The couple has control during a collaborative divorce. By working in a team structure, couples are often come to terms both find agreeable. Since spouses are active participants during the collaborative divorce process, it's widely believed both will be more likely to abide to the divorce settlement.
Collaborative divorce is also often faster and less expensive than traditional divorce. While couples may get locked in a battle of "he-said, she-said" about a variety of issues during standard divorce litigation, collaborative divorce may go a lot smoother, especially if the couple trusts each other and acts with the best interest of the child.
If there has been physical or emotional abuse in a marriage, a collaborative divorce may not be the best option. The whole purpose of the participation agreement is to make sure the couple will not go to a contested hearing and will act in good faith. When there has been a history of domestic violence and disregard for one spouse in the relationship, collaborative divorce may not be appealing, realistic or wise.
Speak to a local divorce lawyer in your area about whether a collaborative divorce is right for you. Whether you're just considering divorce or have already been served with divorce papers and don't want to go through traditional litigation, a local divorce attorney can answer your questions about collaborative divorce and help you figure out your divorce options. Fill out a divorce case review form or call 877-349-1310 today to set up a preliminary consultation and learn about your divorce options.