The divorce process can be a challenging experience, emotionally, legally and financially. Couples are often concerned about the impact divorce may have on their children, family relationships, and finances. Collaborative Divorce is an alternative dispute resolution process which emphasizes creative, long lasting resolutions that are in the best interests of all family members and keeps the well-being of the children at the forefront. Collaborative professionals strive for win-win solutions. Unlike the public court process, the Collaborative Divorce process is also private. Moreover, clients retain control over the decision-making process.
A team is assembled based on the participants’ needs and will typically include a lawyer and communication coach (mental health professional) for each spouse and a neutral financial expert. Other professionals, such as a child specialist, can be included as needed.
Clients are expected to work together in a respectful way, with the support of their attorneys, divorce coaches and neutral financial specialist. New ways of communicating are learned. Clients gather information with the help of their financial specialist in a stream-lined way and work on preparing their declarations of disclosure. As compared to the traditional litigation process, this often results in cost-savings to the clients. Similarly, parenting plans are often negotiated and resolved by the parents in consultation with the divorce coaches. This also results in cost savings, as the attorneys don’t have to be involved until the final stages.
With the exception of agreements that are reached and filed with the court and the declarations of disclosure, communications made during the process remain confidential and cannot be used as evidence if the case later transitions out of the Collaborative Divorce process.
Team meetings are held with the appropriate professionals. Interests are developed and explored. Clients negotiate their own agreements with the support of their attorneys and other professionals. A settlement which meets the approval of both clients is fashioned.
The guiding principles of Collaborative Divorce are that the clients and Collaborative professionals agree at the outset that the case will be settled by themselves, without decisions imposed by a judge or other third-party decision maker. If the entire case cannot be settled, the lawyers and other professionals must withdraw, and, if requested, the lawyers will assist the participants in making the transition to traditional representation. In the unusual case that moves from the Collaborative forum, it is common that some of the disputes have been resolved and a written agreement has been signed. This limits the questions to be decided by a judge or other third-party decision maker and may lay the groundwork for a more effective way of clients working together and resolving their differences in the future.