Collaborative divorce presents a team approach to settlement discussions.
Team Approach: The composition of the “team” starts with you, your spouse and your respective attorneys. Unlike mediation (please click on the Mediation tab to read about that option), at all stages of the collaborative process, you and your spouse will each be represented by independent attorneys who have been specially trained in collaborative divorce. Whenever you have a legal question, you need only ask your attorney. Additionally, the team will include a “neutral” divorce coach – a mental health professional – who assists both parties to address emotional impediments to agreement, but who does not provide counseling or address the underlying reasons for your separation. Other neutral professionals – such as a financial advisor, accountant, appraiser or child expert – may also be added to the team, as needed. Each of these professional members of the team will also have been collaboratively-trained.
Objective: The collaborative team has one goal: the cooperative resolution of all issues without the threat of litigation.
Process: It should be noted that a lot of the work of the professional members of the team is done behind the scenes. Before the initial team meeting, the divorce coach will speak with each party to learn his/her goals and concerns, which will then be shared with the attorneys. The professional members of the team will discuss ways to approach difficult or emotional issues respectfully and with sensitivity and will prepare an agenda of the issues to be discussed at each confidential team meeting, all in order to increase the likelihood of success.
At the team meeting, the participants will determine what information is needed in order to understand the family’s finances (or other issues) and will assign “homework” in order to gather that info. The financial “neutral” will help the team review the financial information and suggest options for settlement of support and property division issues.
The team will schedule as many meetings as are necessary to address the issues and those meetings generally will be held, on an alternating basis, in each attorney’s conference room. Following each meeting, the team will discuss how the meeting went and ways to address any obstacles encountered. They will also distribute to you and each other a written summary of the meeting.
As with Mediation, you control the number of meetings and the pace of the process.
Concluding the Divorce: A successful collaborative case will conclude with the signing of a written settlement agreement (called a “Separation Agreement”), drafted by the attorneys. Your attorneys will also prepare the other documents needed for filing with the Court and will accompany you to the brief “uncontested” hearing to present the agreement to a Judge for approval. In this way, you and your spouse will have decided the terms of your divorce instead of leaving it to a Judge to decide them for you.
If Collaborative Process does not work, the other paths are available. However, both collaborative attorneys must withdraw and you must hire litigation counsel if you go to Litigation. Also, the information that has been gathered during collaborative process cannot be used in the court proceedings, unless you both agree to do so.
Costs: Although the cost of hiring a team of professionals may seem imposing, often the collaborative approach is less expensive, emotionally and financially, than is litigation. A successful collaborative case encourages communication, preserves relationships, considers emotions, and keeps the parties from spiraling down a path that leads to a bad and costly place.
If you would like to discuss Collaborative Divorce with me, please call or email to set up a complimentary 30 minute consultation.