How Collaborative Divorce Works: FAQs

Going through a divorce can be difficult and confusing. Divorces often involve lawyers, court dates, and a lot of time and expenses. This is true for divorcing couples that can't agree on what to do. They need the intervention of attorneys and judges to resolve their disputes.

On the other hand, some couples don't have significant disagreements and can proceed with an uncontested divorce. For them, the only legal help they likely need is guidance with filing their divorce papers.

Most people find themselves in the middle. They are able and willing to come to agreements outside of court but may only be able to agree on some things. The parties may view child custody, alimony support, and property division differently. However, they may not necessarily have to go to court to settle their issues. These couples could benefit from using the collaborative divorce process.

This article addresses some frequently asked questions about the collaborative divorce process.

What Is Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative law removes disputes from the "fight and win" setting of a courtroom. Instead, issues are resolved in a "troubleshoot and problem-solve" environment of negotiations. Thus, a collaborative law divorce is a process by which parties use mediation and negotiations to settle their divorce.

The defining characteristic of collaborative divorce is that the parties and attorneys agree not to litigate. Suppose one of the parties goes back on that agreement not to litigate. In that case, all the attorneys are still bound, and the parties who litigate anyway must find new counsel.

Some courts even require divorcing parties to try mediation or collaborative divorce before going to court. Note that a collaborative law divorce takes two willing participants to negotiate in good faith. If your spouse is reluctant, mediation and negotiations may be fruitless.

What Is the Difference Between Traditional Divorce and Collaborative Divorce

The traditional divorce process is typically adversarial. Couples in the traditional process engage with the courts because they cannot agree on various issues in the divorce. They may hire attorneys to negotiate on their behalf. The traditional divorce process requires many court appearances. So going to court can be time-consuming and expensive. This approach often increases conflict, stress, and animosity between the parties.

Collaborative divorce focuses on cooperation between the ex-spouses to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. The process involves a collaborative divorce team. This team often includes:

  • Attorneys
  • Divorce coaches
  • Financial specialists
  • Child specialists

These collaborative professionals work with the spouses in a series of mediation sessions. The teams discuss and negotiate the divorce terms with the ex-spouses. Some divorcing couples may include family members in the dispute resolution process. Couples can have family members for emotional support or parenting plan discussions. This collaborative practice aims to minimize conflict, reduce stress, and promote amicable solutions.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Collaborative Divorce?

There are several benefits to avoiding using the court process to resolve your divorce issues. Some of the more significant advantages of using a collaborative model are that:

  • It gives you and your ex-spouse control over the decision-making process.
  • It saves time and money.
  • It takes place in a confidential setting rather than a public courtroom.
  • It involves the free, open, informal, and honest exchange of information.
  • It encourages full disclosure of relevant information.
  • It aims to reduce conflict and emotional strain.
  • It allows you to negotiate a divorce agreement that works for you.

How Collaborative Divorce Works

The following is a basic step-by-step process to display how most collaborative law divorces proceed:

  • Each spouse hires their own attorney. When choosing your attorney, hire a legal professional who supports mediation, understands negotiation, and is trained in collaborative divorce practice. An attorney who focuses on courtroom advocacy may be less effective in negotiation.
  • Both parties and their attorneys sign a participation agreement. This agreement directs both attorneys to withdraw from the case if the case continues to litigation. This agreement sets the tone and expectations for the collaborative law process.
  • Meet with your collaborative lawyer privately, without your spouse and your spouse's attorney. Be sure to let your attorney know exactly what you want but remember that you may have to compromise. Let your attorney know your limits. You and your attorney should have significant issues decided before negotiations begin. This will help the process run smoothly and reach the best solution for everyone.
  • You and your attorney meet with your spouse and your spouse's attorney. This "four-way" meeting will occur regularly. Collaborative divorces often include other professionals. Examples of some professionals are child custody specialists and financial professionals. These individuals must be neutral experts to avoid biased influence. The collaborative team commits to helping you settle your case outside of court. Remember, your collaborative team can also include mental health professionals. However, this may increase the cost of the negotiation process.
  • Contact a family or domestic relations court to file your legal documents. Typically, this includes the divorce filing and the settlement agreement. The settlement agreement will document the terms agreed to during the meetings. This document outlines issues like co-parenting, child support, division of assets, and spousal support for approval by the court. This filing will be simple because you have gone through a collaborative law divorce. Your attorney or mediators can help you with this filing.

Collaborative divorce can save you time, money, and the stress of litigation. Most importantly, it allows parties to work together to reach the best solution for everyone involved.

Get Started With Your Collaborative Family Law Divorce: Hire an Attorney

The legal process of a divorce is complex. Collaborative divorce is a popular method to agree on these issues. A skilled family law attorney will know how to effectuate a collaborative divorce. Finding a trustworthy attorney is key, so check out FindLaw's collaborative divorce attorney directory today.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • You may not need an attorney for a simple divorce with uncontested issues
  • Legal advice is critical to protect your interests in a contested divorce
  • Divorce lawyers can help secure fair custody/visitation, support, and property division

An attorney is a skilled advocate during negotiations and court proceedings. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Divorce is an ideal time to review your beneficiary designations on life insurance, bank accounts, and retirement accounts. You need to change your estate planning forms to reflect any new choices about your personal representative and beneficiaries. You can change your power of attorney if you named your ex-spouse as your agent. Also, change your health care directive to remove them from making your health care decisions.

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