More and more couples are opting for a process called a “Collaborative divorce” when their marriage is at an end. At its core, Collaborative Divorce is a dispute resolution process that asks each party to determine his/her goals, interests, and priorities for the divorce process which are then openly discussed and used to form the basis for reaching agreements and a final resolution about which both parties feel good. Of course, there will always be some compromise, but the overarching goal is to reach a place that feels like a fair and harmonious resolution for both parties.
The process is fairly straightforward, but has a few requirements:
- Both parties must be represented by Collaboratively trained attorneys.
- Both parties must enter into a written Collaborative Participation Agreement, which embodies the key principals of the Collaborative process and the parties’ intent to abide by those principals. By signing the Participation Agreement, the parties agree that they will not go to court and that they will engage in the process in good faith and will fully disclose all of their income, assets and liabilities.
- Both parties must agree to terminate representation by their Collaborative attorneys if the Collaborative process ends without a final agreement being reached. This provides the protection for both parties to really discuss the issues at hand without a concern that their discussions will be later used against them if the Collaborative process ends and the parties find themselves litigating their divorce case in court.
In addition to the key differences from a litigated process, all parties agree to engage in an open, honest exchange of information, where they pledge not to take advantage of mistakes or inadvertent omissions. Instead, these issues are addressed, acknowledged, and corrected.
Further, because it is in many ways a “joint effort,” the Collaborative process can often be less expensive than a litigated process and the parties are insulated from run-away legal fees.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a large focus of the Collaborative process is on the children and shielding them from any conflict in the divorce. Professionals called a Parenting or Divorce Coach, or a Child Specialist, are used to guide parents toward resolving custody disputes in their children’s best interests.
Of course, the biggest difference between the Collaborative Divorce process and litigation is that you and your spouse, not a Judge, are in full control of the details of your settlement.