Collaborative Divorce differs from litigation in court because it promotes respect among the parties and keeps the parties in control of the process, not a judge. The parties sign a written agreement not to go to court and work with a team of collaboratively trained lawyers, coaches, child specialists and financial professionals to come to a settlement that both parties can live with. Although Collaborative Divorce involves a team approach, this model is usually more time and cost effective than litigation.
The goal of the process is to maintain a less adversarial atmosphere for resolving the case and allowing the parties to enter this new chapter of their lives in a more positive way. This process is based upon the following three principles:
- The parties pledge in writing not to go to court.
- Both parties engage in an honest exchange of information (i.e. financial information)
- Each solution takes into account the highest priorities of the parties and other members of the family such as the children.
The Collaborative Divorce Process differs from other means of resolving a dissolution of marriage because it involves an interdisciplinary team model composed of two collaborative law attorneys, a neutral financial specialist, two mental health coaches and a child specialist (advocate for the child/children). In addition, the clients are an integral part of the team. Collaborative Divorce professionals use their expertise to educate, guide and coach the parties so that they are able to come up with a settlement agreement that works specifically for them and their family. There is also more focus on the children of the relationship with an understanding that a divorce with children doesn’t end the relationship. The parties must find a way to continue to operate as a family though living separate and apart from one another.
Some of the benefits of Collaborative Divorce are as follows:
- The process is confidential. Problems are kept private and not disclosed in court documents that become public record.
- Provides a voice for your children and avoids the trauma that can impact the family for generations.
- Solutions are mutually beneficial. The process takes into account each person’s needs, interests, concerns and goals allowing all parties to be heard.
- Saves time and resources by keeping the matter out of court.
- You and your spouse keep control of the decisions yourselves, rather than giving it up to a judge. You make the decisions that are best suited for you and your family. Decisions are not made by a Judge that knows little to nothing about your family and its dynamics.
- Reduces conflict and negative emotions while focusing on a solution.
- Provides a vision for your family’s future.
The Collaborative Team
Going through a divorce can make you feel alone and isolated. Unlike traditional divorce, Collaborative Divorce provides you with a collaboratively trained team of skilled and compassionate professionals who work in multiple disciplines. The team members help you manage all aspects experienced by going through a divorce. They facilitate a resolution that takes into account the legal, emotional and financial components of divorce. The collaborative team is typically comprised of the following members:
- Legal Counsel – Although the Collaborative Divorce Process seeks to avoid court involvement, the divorce action and settlement are legal in nature. It is essential that each party have their own collaboratively trained lawyer to advise them on all matters of the law, including, but not limited to, property division, child custody/visitation, child support, spousal support and legal fees.
- Divorce Coach – Divorce is a major life transition that is often emotional. While a divorce signifies the closing of one chapter of your life, it is also the beginning of another. A divorce coach is a mental health professional that is not there to provide you with therapy, but rather, help you to manage the pain and strain of changing relationships. A divorce coach assists you in communicating effectively with your spouse and assists you in being at your best during the divorce process while taking positive steps to a new life.
- Neutral Financial Consultant – The divorce settlement will involve dividing your assets and debts. It will also determine your financial well-being for many years to come. It is critical that a settlement be soundly structured. The financial consultant acts as a neutral and assists you and your spouse in protecting your financial interests. Reviewing all assets and incomes, the financial consultant will assist you in developing viable financial options for settlement and your future.
- Child Specialist – It is often the children that suffer most from a divorce and typically are the least able to communicate their feelings. Their world is being turned upside down and it may be difficult for them to communicate with their parents. One of the goals of Collaborative Divorce is to ensure that your children are a priority and not a casualty of divorce. The child specialist is an individual skilled in understanding children and will meet with them privately to allow them to express their feelings and concerns regarding the divorce. The child specialist can then report back to the team and allows the team to take into consideration the feelings, concerns and hopes of the children while devising a settlement.