If you've decided to end your marriage (or that decision has been made for you), then you are probably bracing yourself for months of distasteful negotiations and wondering how you'll ever restore your life. But, divorce/separation doesn't always have to replicate the movies like First Wives Club or The Break-Up.
If you haven't heard about it already, "Collaborative Law" has become a hot topic among divorcing spouses. What is it? Simply put, collaborative divorce happens when a couple agrees to work out a divorce settlement without going to court and is a good option for those trying to avoid the financial and emotional damage of a controversial divorce.
One of the biggest questions people tend to have is what sets it apart from other dispute resolutions, such as mediation or arbitration. Collaborative law has three main aspects to it that makes it different.
- The parties must agree to negotiate in good faith and to be fully forthcoming and transparent.
- Each spouse must retain a collaboratively trained attorney.
- Each party must sign a Participation Agreement acknowledging that they will adhere to the principles of collaborative law. If either party decides to go to court, then both parties agree that they will retain new attorneys and, if applicable, new "experts".
How Does It Work?
The parties and their attorneys will have an initial meeting in which they will identify the specific issues in their divorce. After the issues are identified, an agenda and schedule are created that will guide the parties moving forward. Where this differs from a traditional divorce, is that the schedule created in collaborative law can be modified to meet the wants or needs of the parties at any time. Whereas in a traditional divorce, the Court is the dictator of the timeline and your feelings or needs are not taken into consideration. At this first meeting, it will be decided if there is a need for any other collaboratively trained professionals. Depending on the situation, such professionals are divorce coaches, child specialists and financial specialists. These professionals are neutrals and they are chosen and retained by both parties. Their job is to provide impartial recommendations and assist the parties in the decision making process.
Every divorce is different and certain circumstances may call for different professionals to help you through the process. Whether your divorce will entail certain professionals depends on the needs of your family. In many divorces, the separating spouses have a difficult time altering their lives and more often than not, leads to bitterness or anger. In collaborative law, the divorce coach will guide the parties in communicating directly with one another to maintain civility rather than talking through the attorneys as you would in a traditional divorce proceeding.
One of the main reasons why collaborative divorce is successful is that everyone is working toward a common goal. If the parties believe they can work together in the entirety and strive towards a common goal, then collaborative law may be a beneficial avenue for you.