Even though divorce rates have risen considerably in the last few decades, the divorce process has been slow to evolve. Alternate Dispute Resolution, or mediation, is often used to resolve dissolution actions prior to trial; however, the track leading up to mediation is adversarial and time consuming. There is good news: things are changing for the better!
Collaborative divorce is a process by which couples work through issues of child custody, parenting time, division of financial assets and payment of marital bills and expenses through non-litigation techniques guided by specially-trained, experienced family law attorneys with the assistance, of collaboratively trained professionals, such as divorce coaches, child specialists, and financial specialists. The goals of collaborative divorce practice are similar to litigation in that collaborative professionals consider the best interests of the children in custody and parenting time issues and the law in the division of assets and debts. However, collaborative professionals do not consider these issues in a vacuum, but rather in ways that also address the emotional and personal needs of the family that is being separated. Collaborative practice recognizes that the spouses are often forever linked – even if divorced – by children, grandchildren and long-time friends.
The collaborative model is designed to assist divorcing spouses work through their disputes constructively and peacefully. This allows both parties to move forward as individuals with dignity and respect without the post-traumatic stress that often accompanies divorce.
Just as in divorce litigation, collaborative practice requires both parties to provide full disclosure of all relevant issues and facts involving the children, as well as a full disclosure of all financial assets and liabilities. Both parties exchange all information and documentation necessary to make informed decisions regarding custody, parenting time, and division of the marital estate. Moreover, each party is given the time necessary to process, evaluate, and apply the information to his/her individual circumstances. Through collaboration and communication, parties are able to resolve their differences in such a way that is beneficial to both.
There is a Chinese proverb that is often used by collaborative professionals: “Never cut what can be untied.” This is especially true in cases where married couples, especially those with children, know that divorce is inevitable, but do not wish to undergo the financial, personal and emotional expense and stress of litigation. Dissolution is never a “winner-take-all” proposition. In fact, in most cases, there are no real winners, only losers. Protracted litigation takes a personal toll that may never be repaired. Litigation often results in emotional hurt, hard feelings, distrust and outright hatred, which negatively impacts the ability of the parties to successfully co-parent their children.
Most divorcing couples share a concern that the divorce process will be long, drawn out, and expensive. Statistics show that collaborative divorces are often a third less expensive than a litigated divorce – even with the use of collaborative professionals – and about a third the time.
Why less expensive? Costs are reduced because collaborative professionals work through issues effectively and efficiently. Divorce coaches help clients with emotional issues that are often entangled in property division and child-related issues. Child Specialists work with the parents to develop custody and parenting plans, and are trained to identify parenting issues and address them effectively in meetings with parents. Financial specialists help the parties to divide property effectively.
Why less time? There is a significant time savings because the collaborative process moves as quickly as the parties wish it to move. There is no waiting on discovery deadlines and court dates. The parties and attorneys are able to streamline the process making it much more time efficient.
Although there are real financial and time benefits, there are also significant personal benefits to collaborative divorce. Divorce is never a happy experience, but collaborative practice makes it as good as it can be. If you are interested in collaborative divorce, call any member of our collaborative team. We will be glad to answer any questions, and help you decide whether collaborative divorce is right for you!