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How Collaborative Divorce Works: FAQs

Going through a divorce can be a difficult and confusing time. 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 and require the intervention of attorneys and judges to resolve their disputes. On the other hand, there are some couples who don't have any major disagreements and can proceed with a straightforward divorce. For them, the only legal help they likely need is guidance with filing their divorce papers.

Most people find themselves in the middle, where they are able and willing to come to agreements outside of court, but may not be able to agree on everything. In these situations, the parties may have different views on how to best settle issues like child custody, alimony support, and property division. However, they may not necessarily have to go to court to settle their issues. These couples could benefit from using a collaborative divorce procedure.

What Is a Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative law refers to the process of removing disputes from the "fight and win" setting of a courtroom into a "troubleshoot and problem solve" setting 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 all agree not to litigate. If one of the parties goes back on that agreement not to litigate, all the attorneys are still bound, and the parties who litigate anyway have to find new counsel.

Some courts even make it mandatory that divorcing parties seek mediation or collaborative divorce before litigating in court. Note that it takes two willing participants for a collaborative law divorce to work. If your spouse is reluctant, mediation and negotiations may be fruitless.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Collaborative Divorce?

There are a number of benefits to being able to avoid using the court process to resolve your divorce issues. Some of the more important benefits of using a collaborative model are that it:

  • Saves money
  • Saves time
  • Takes place in an informal setting
  • Involves the free, open, informal, and honest exchange of information
  • Allows you to decide now how to handle post-settlement disputes
  • Allows you to negotiate a result that works for you

What's the Process of a Collaborative Law Divorce?

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

  • Each party hires their own attorney. In choosing your attorney, be sure to hire one that is supportive of mediation and understands the negotiation process. An attorney who represents you with the zealous advocate approach required in a courtroom will not be as effective when trying to negotiate.
  • Both parties and their attorneys sign a "no court" agreement that directs both of the attorneys to withdraw from the case if the case does continue to litigation in court.
  • Meet with your attorney privately, without your spouse and spouse's attorney. Be sure to let your attorney know exactly what you want, but remember that you may have to compromise on some things. Let your attorney know your limits. You and your attorney should have major issues decided on before negotiations begin in order to keep the process running smoothly and to reach the best solution for everyone.
  • You and your attorney meet with your spouse and your spouse's attorney. This "four-way" meeting will probably occur on a regular basis. Collaborative divorces often include other professionals like child custody specialists and even accountants. It is important that these individuals are party-neutral so that their input is not influenced by bias. Typically, party-neutral professionals of this sort are committed to helping you settle your case outside of court.
  • Contact a family or domestic relations court to file your divorce papers and settlement agreement. Because you have gone through a collaborative law divorce, this filing will be a simple, uncontested procedure.

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

Get Started With Your Collaborative Divorce: Hire an Attorney

The legal issues involved in a divorce are numerous and complex. Collaborative divorce is now a popular method to come to an agreement on these issues, and a competent divorce attorney will know how to effectuate a collaborative divorce without resorting to litigation. Finding a trustworthy and competent attorney is the key, so check out FindLaw's collaborative divorce attorney directory today.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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