What is Collaborative Divorce & Is It Right for Me?

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Divorce is never easy, but some divorces are certainly much easier than others. Many people naturally assume that the divorce process only offers one route to separation, and that couples have no flexibility or options on the methods or procedures. The truth, however, is that the divorce process can look very different depending on the attitudes of the parties and the overall complexity of the case. Whenever possible, divorcing couples should seek to separate in the most amicable, stress-free manner. Collaborative divorce is among the least stressful divorce processes a couple can go through. 

In this post, we will provide a brief overview of collaborative divorce and then proceed with a comparison with mediation and litigation. As we will see, whether or not collaborative divorce is suitable for a given situation depends greatly on the relationship between the divorcing parties.

Basic Overview of Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce is a unique divorce process which requires that the divorcing parties actively cooperate with each other to a significant degree. In a collaborative divorce, the divorcing parties negotiate and work together, and so the largest barrier to a collaborative divorce is the relationship between the parties. If there is animosity such that the parties are unwilling to have this level of cooperation, then the collaborative process simply will not work. In a collaborative divorce, the parties both hire their own collaborative attorney and then attempt to negotiate the various aspects of the divorce, such as property division, spousal support, child custody, visitation and so forth. Usually, the parties must hire other professionals as part of their own “divorce team,” such as financial advisors, CPAs, childcare specialists, and so on.

Four Way Meetings

As soon as a divorcing couple agrees to a collaborative divorce, they will begin to have “four way meetings” with themselves and their attorneys. Depending on the situation, there may be more than four total people involved in a given meeting; but, there will always be no fewer than four people, and so it’s useful to refer to these meetings as four way meetings for this reason. During these meetings, the parties and their attorneys will attempt to negotiate all aspects of the divorce. Although the parties work together, they are also trying to facilitate the best possible outcome for themselves; this is why having a capable attorney is so important. Both parties need to obtain attorneys who can zealously represent them during the negotiations, otherwise they might risk a subpar outcome.

“No Court” Agreement

At the initial meeting between the parties and their attorneys, all participants will sign a “no court” agreement. This includes the attorneys of both parties. This solidifies the collaborative divorce and demonstrates the intention of the parties to avoid litigation. In addition, the agreement states that both attorneys will drop the case if one party becomes uncooperative and wishes to pursue litigation. In other words, if one (or both) of the parties ultimately wishes to collapse the collaborative divorce process and pursue litigation, then new attorneys will be needed for both sides. This functions as a serious incentive to preserve the collaborative divorce process, because hiring entirely new attorneys will be a substantial cost. 

Comparisons with Mediation & Litigation

The collaborative divorce process has many similarities with mediation, and it is quite different from litigation. As with mediation, collaborative divorce is a relatively low-stress option. Also like mediation, collaborative divorce occurs outside of a courtroom, and couples can basically establish their meetings in order to harmonize with their existing schedules. Although it depends on the case, mediation and collaborative divorce are also generally less expensive than litigation. However, the barrier of collaborative divorce is that the parties must have an amicable relationship to some degree. This is not always a guarantee in this context.

Contact Z Family Law for More Information

Hopefully, this gives readers a sense of what collaborative divorce is like. If you need more information, don’t hesitate to contact Z Family Law by calling 301-388-5528.