Do Collaborative Divorces Exist?
Carlsbad, CA – When you picture a divorce, does an image of soon-to-be ex-spouses fighting each other come to mind? What if there was a better way?
Collaboration and divorce probably aren’t words that normally go hand in hand, but collaborative divorces do exist, and can help former partners end their relationships amicably.
“In a collaborative divorce, spouses work with lawyers and other family professionals to achieve a settlement that best meets the needs of all the parties involved, including the children,” says family attorney John Griffith. “Rather than going before a judge and waiting for an unknown outcome, the spouses are able to sit down and, along with their team of professionals, settle their divorce by a written agreement.”
How does a collaborative divorce differ from a regular divorce?
The biggest difference between a litigated divorce and a collaborative one is that in a collaborative divorce, the parties work together with the professionals involved and under the supervision of a divorce lawyer. A litigated divorce is adversarial with each side making his or her best argument in front of a judge and hoping for a favorable outcome. That doesn’t mean that agreement on all decisions will be easy or quick, but it does mean that each side agrees to work together to find solutions that work for the better for everyone involved, without going to court.
To begin a collaborative divorce, both parties must sign a contract agreeing to resolve their issues outside of a courtroom. For the process to work, each side must agree to be fair, reasonable and respectful. This also requires both spouses to freely and honestly provide all information needed, including financial assets and debts.
Any experts used during the process, such as accountants or appraisers, will remain neutral throughout the proceedings—neither party has a biased expert putting a favorable spin on one side of the case.
How a divorce attorney approaches a collaborative divorce will be different as as well. It is the job of the divorce lawyer to counsel his client on the law, and advise the client on the best options for finding middle ground in the process. Rather than fighting against each other to gain an advantage for their client, both lawyers work together to reach a settlement.
The biggest advantage for clients during a collaborative divorce is that it allows them to maintain control over the outcome of the divorce, rather than waiting for a judge’s decision. They also generally save thousands in the process.
Isn’t a collaborative divorce just like mediation?
Not necessarily. Mediation generally occurs without the involvement of experts (i.e. CPA, therapist, business valuator etc…). Non-collaborative mediation is somewhat more adversarial in that each side presents their best case scenario with the mediator helping then reach a middle ground.
Mediation is typically a way for divorcing spouses to settle major disputes before entering into a regular divorce and heading to court. It can lengthen the time a regular divorce would take, but can be beneficial if you know there will be major issues that could become contentious.
What is best for you?
When it comes to deciding which option is best for you, it all depends on whether or not you are able to set emotions aside and approach the process with an open mind. Collaborative divorces are excellent for spouses who want an active role in seeking solutions to divorce issues, such as spousal support, custody of children, and division of property. If your goal is to make your spouse suffer and you are not willing to compromise, then you will be wasting your time and money.
Collaborative divorce can often be less expensive, quicker and less stressful than a regular divorce because you can avoid the formal court proceedings. It can also make things much easier on children, as they will see their parents working together, rather than fighting in court.
However, it may not be right for everyone. To work properly, collaborative divorce must be just that – collaborative. Some spouses simply may not be able to work together to reach agreements, and a regular divorce may be in their best interest.
When making the decision about how to proceed with your divorce, it’s important to remember these pros and cons of a collaborative divorce:
- The process is confidential, whereas a regular divorce will become public record.
- You can choose the attorneys who will represent you and your spouse, knowing they will work together for both of you.
- You share the costs of working with additional experts during the process to ensure the best outcome for each of you.
- Because it is voluntary, it allows an amicable dissolution that will be more likely to be honored post-divorce
- If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, you will most likely have to hire new attorneys to represent you during the court proceedings.
- There must be adequate trust on the account of both parties to be honest and forthcoming.
- You will not avoid the courtroom completely. The judge maintains authority over parenting decisions, even during a collaborative divorce. One or both of you must attend a hearing to submit your parenting agreement and settlement agreement to the judge.
“Divorce attorneys want to make the process as stress-free as possible for our clients,” says Griffith. “We know it is a difficult time already, but collaboration can help you achieve an excellent outcome, and as ex-partners work together for each other’s best interest, it can go a long way toward healing wounds. Collaboration can provide a respectful and peaceful end to your marriage.”
If you are in need of an experienced team of divorce or family law attorneys, Griffith, Young and Lass can help you collaborate with your former spouse to reach a settlement that is in the best interest of both of you. Schedule a consultation today.
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