What is a Collaborative Divorce?

what-is-collaborative-divorceCollaborative divorce is a unique alternative to the traditional adversarial divorce process. It is designed to provide maximum support and resources for you and your spouse in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution of all the issues associated with a divorce and the changes in your life as a result. Collaborative divorce is designed to make sure that the needs of both spouses and your minor children are heard, understood and considered with respect. The Collaborative approach helps you move beyond emotionally-based positions toward interest-based agreements that work for both spouses which focus on your values and your needs and not on a win-lose mentality.

In the Collaborative process a team of professionals addresses the legal, financial and emotional needs of each spouse. Using professionals who have specific expertise provides an efficient, effective and generally more affordable divorce process. You and your spouse each retain your own Collaboratively-trained family law attorney to provide counsel, legal advice, assistance in reaching an agreement and to draft the necessary documents to reflect your agreements and initiate and conclude the legal divorce.

You and your spouse will also jointly retain two neutral licensed professionals who will work with you to gather the information needed to reach a mutually acceptable divorce agreement as effectively, efficiently and affordably as possible, a Collaborative neutral financial specialist and a Collaborative neutral coach.

The financial neutral specialist helps you identify, document, gather and analyze the financial information relating to assets, debt and income needed to resolve the financial issues of a divorce. The financial specialist provides models of projected income and expenses based on your specific current situation and future resources such as pensions. The financial neutral highlights financial realities by creating real-time, after tax projections of different settlement options. The financial specialist can also provide assistance in arriving at fair, accurate valuations of assets. As part of the Collaborative process both spouses agree to voluntarily provide all relevant information. This voluntary, transparent exchange of information avoids expensive legal procedures since neither spouse can hide documents or unnecessarily delay providing them.

The collaborative neutral divorce coach, a mental health professional,facilitates communication and provides information and support regarding emotional issues. Working with both spouses the divorce coach helps each articulate and clarify personal goals, needs and interests which each spouse wants reflected in the divorce agreement. The coach is particularly skilled in helping the parents create a foundation for co-parenting and a specific plan that meets legal requirements and practical realities of post-divorce family structures. The coach also acts as a facilitator of communication among all participants and keeps the process focused on the goals identified despite what can be emotionally-charged discussions.

The Collaborative divorce process uses an effective, time-saving technique of using meetings with all necessary participants to gather, exchange and clarify information, to make necessary interim arrangements, to brainstorm settlement options and to negotiate solutions. Once an agreement that meets both spouses interests is fashioned, the Collaborative attorneys draft pleadings, a document referred to as a Separation Agreement which embodies all agreements, related items such as deeds and other transfer documents and then an appropriate non-contested court action is filed.

iStock_000001078478_SmallA distinguishing requirement of the Collaborative process is that both spouses and the attorney of each spouse agree in a written Participation Agreement that they will not file any action in court during the time the spouses are working toward settlement. Should you and your spouse be unable to reach a final agreement on all issues, the Participation Agreement also provides that the Collaborative attorneys and the other team professionals will withdraw from their representation and you and your spouse will each have to retain different attorneys to litigate your divorce in court.