How Does Collaborative Divorce Work and Is It Right for You?

How Does Collaborative Divorce Work and Is It Right for You?

Learn how collaborative divorce works and whether it's right for you.

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It is widely known that navigating a divorce can be a difficult, contentious, and costly process.

While most American divorces do not reach the dramatic levels seen on television, they are far from easy. Typically, divorces involve the assistance of lawyers, a significant amount of time, money, and sometimes even a lengthy trial.

Courts across the country encourage couples to collaborate in resolving their divorce disputes. When both parties can come to an agreement, the process tends to be much smoother. If reaching an agreement seems impossible, hiring a mediator—a neutral third party—to facilitate discussions and resolve conflicts may be beneficial.

Certain states provide couples with divorce alternatives such as legal separation, but once again, cooperation between spouses is essential for this option to be effective. In cases where tensions are high and an agreement seems unattainable, following the traditional divorce process in your state is necessary.

What Is Collaborative Divorce?

A collaborative divorce is a legal procedure where couples can amicably discuss and settle all aspects of their divorce without resorting to courtroom battles or public disputes. Through a combination of mediation and negotiation, couples work together to reach agreements on key issues such as property division, debt allocation, child custody, child support, and spousal support.

How Does Collaborative Divorce Work?

The initial step in the collaborative divorce process involves a discussion between the divorcing partners to confirm their willingness to negotiate and cooperate in the collaborative process. If one party is not willing to take part, the collaborative divorce process will not be feasible.

The subsequent step involves each spouse engaging the services of a lawyer. It is crucial to select an attorney who is well-versed in collaborative divorce and open to utilizing alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation, rather than opting for litigation and having a judge make decisions on unresolved matters.

Collaborative divorce attorneys with experience know how to transform a potentially adversarial situation into a mutually beneficial settlement for both parties. Your attorney should advocate solely for your best interests, ensuring that any terms in the divorce agreement that you are uncomfortable with are renegotiated to your advantage.

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Following this, arrange a private meeting with your attorney to outline your preferences for the divorce proceedings. This discussion should cover the division of assets and debts, child custody, visitation, child support, and potential spousal support post-divorce. If either spouse possesses a 401k or pension plan, it is essential to discuss with your attorney whether these accounts should be divided between you and your spouse.

Additionally, it is advisable to start building your collaborative divorce team, which may include a divorce coach, financial expert, and child specialist. These professionals will work jointly with both spouses, ensuring that the best interests of all parties involved are considered. While not all three specialists may be necessary, having a child specialist is typically recommended if minor children are involved. With your attorneys and specialists in place, your collaborative divorce team will work together to explore various options and achieve the most favorable resolutions for your family.

After reaching an agreement on the terms of your divorce with your spouse, your legal representatives will prepare a settlement agreement for both parties to endorse. Exercise caution and refrain from signing the document unless you are in full agreement with all the divorce terms. If the judgment is deemed fair and reasonable to both parties, the judge will authorize it, and it will then serve as the final judgment of your divorce.

Is Collaborative Divorce Right for Us?

The suitability of a collaborative divorce depends on the willingness of each spouse to negotiate and work together. If there is a history of domestic violence or an inability to communicate, a contested divorce may be necessary. Conversely, if both parties are open to discussing the divorce amicably, the collaborative process can save time and money. This approach allows the couple to retain control over the essential divorce issues without third-party intervention.

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