One alternative to divorce litigation is collaborative divorce, a method of dissolving a marriage wherein the parties and their attorneys agree to resolve conflicts by employing cooperative techniques rather than adversarial strategies and litigation. Everyone involved is committed to resolving the case through negotiation rather than in court. As a result, the parties and their attorneys agree that no litigation will be filed during the negotiation period.
Before the negotiation period begins, the parties enter in an agreement that if a settlement is not reached, the lawyers will withdraw from the process and not participate in the ensuing litigation. It is understood by all involved that their attorney’s role is limited to settlement negotiations only. Further, the agreement describes the commitments required of the parties and their attorneys in the collaborative divorce process such as:
- The parties agree that the issues will be resolved in a non-adversarial manner;
- The parties agree that their lawyers will be utilized to assist in reach a settlement;
- The parties agree to act in the best interests of their children;
- The parties agree to communicate in a respectful and thoughtful manner without taking advantage of the other parties’ mistakes;
- The parties will retain neutral experts;
- There will be no unilateral changes to the children’s status quo
In addition, the agreement usually specifies the terms for ending the collaborative process.
A collaborative divorce is highly recommended for individuals with families and/or significant assets. If you have a family a collaborative divorce is an effective way to allow each side in the divorce to reach a fair solution and resolve differences. The collaborative process allows divorcing parties to focus on the emotional issues involved in the divorce. In court, the judge is not particularly concerned about the parties’ emotional wellbeing so much as making a decision that is in the children’s best interests. The collaborative process allows the parties to focus on working together.
In addition, the collaborative process requires complete disclosure of all facts and assets. In cases with substantial assets, background checks, skip traces, bank subpoenas and business evaluation experts can become very costly very quickly. The collaborative process requires both parties to fully report their assets and debts. It requires the parties obtain neutral experts and permits the parties to share the cost of those experts which will save the parties money as compared with each party retaining their own expert as is required in litigation.
Be advised that a collaborative divorce is not for every divorcing couple. It requires a strong commitment by both parties to achieve results, manage their emotions, act in the best interests of their children and avoid litigation. In addition, a collaborative divorce may be expensive if the process fails. This could add additional time and expense and will require both sides to hire a new attorney if the process breaks down. As a result, a party unwilling to compromise or work with the opposing side toward achieving a divorce is not a candidate for collaborative divorce.