Collaborative Divorce Process
The collaborative divorce process can vary by jurisdiction and the professionals who become involved in your case. However, generally, the process is described best as “representation without litigation.” Collaborative divorce is a mix between a traditional divorce because it involves attorneys, and divorce mediation, where couples reach an agreement on their own through discussions facilitated by a mediator.
Lawyers retained for the collaborative divorce process are specifically trained to reach “win-win” settlements instead of “win- lose” outcomes. This is because Collaborative attorneys serve as advocates not only for what is best for their clients but for what is fair and just for all involved.
In the collaborative divorce process, all the professionals involved in your matter are interested in helping you and your spouse resolve your legal issues in an amicable fashion without litigation. Anything that is shared during the collaborative divorce process is confidential and cannot be used in litigation if the collaborative divorce process fails.
The process generally involves the following steps:
Each spouse hires a collaborative attorney, who has been trained in the collaborative law process. One attorney cannot ethically represent both sides because an attorney is hired to advocate for only one party, their client.
The spouses and their attorneys sign a collaborative contract that sets out the terms of the process which requires the parties to agree to “collaborate” in the divorce process in order to reach an amicable settlement. If an agreement cannot be reached and the case goes to court, the agreement also states that the spouses’ attorneys cannot represent their clients in the litigation process. The spouses would then have to hire new attorneys to represent them in litigating their case in the courts.
The spouses will meet with their attorneys alone and individually to discuss his or her most favorable vision for a parenting plan, child support, spousal support and property division.
Then the two attorneys and the spouses will also meet together in joint sessions to discuss their client’s position. In these initial meetings the attorneys lay the groundwork for the process in the future to discuss what issues the spouses agree upon and which need to be negotiated.
As the meetings progress, other professionals such as accountants, business appraisers, certified divorce financial analysts, accountants, real estate agents and/or and mental health professionals can be brought into the meetings to assist the spouses in reaching agreements. These professionals remain neutral during the collaborative process. With the help of these professionals working together with the parties, the spouses can make the best-informed decisions that are focused on the specific needs of their family.
- Certified Divorce Financial Analysts – Certified divorce financial analysts are neutrals who help you and your spouse have a better understanding of what your finances may look like post-divorce. In this way, these financial neutrals help support you and your spouse by helping you understand your cash flow and financial situation as you negotiate a fair division of your assets and debts and calculation of support issues.
- Mental Health Professional – These professionals often serve as the facilitators in joint collaborative discussions with you and your spouse and your attorneys. They help diffuse the emotional issues that may arise between the two of you during the collaborative divorce process meetings. These professionals also remain neutral as you and your spouse discuss parenting and financial issues and do not represent either you or your spouse.
- Child Specialist/ Parenting Coordinator – In addition to the mental health professional, a child specialist or parenting coordinator may be involved to support you and your spouse in the collaborative process. This specialist may support the two of you and your child to have a smoother transition during this emotional time. As a parenting coordinator, a mental health professional assists you both as the parents in developing a parenting place that is focused on the best interests of your child and your family while addressing each of your concerns as a parent.
- Real Estate Broker/ Business Appraisers/ Accountants– All of these financial professionals help support you and your spouse, in a neutral way, to handle the various aspects of the division of your marital property and debt as far as the valuation or sale or transfer and/or tax implications of the division of the marital estate.
Collaborative divorce is an option for couples who feel they can work their divorce settlement themselves but still want legal protection. Although not right for everyone, collaborative divorce allows parties to end the marriage but retain a functional relationship during and after divorce.
Want to Know More?
If you are interested in a consultation to discuss the options available to resolve your divorce, custody issues, support, or equitable distribution issues, please contact me and I can help you investigate your options. Call me, Lenore M.J. Myers, at 215-470-3121 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.