Collaborative Divorce provides families with an opportunity to settle their differences without resorting to litigation. It allows you and your spouse to play an active role and to control the process. With the help of the Collaborative team you work towards an overall settlement in a non-adversarial environment. Each party hires their own collaboratively trained attorney. In addition, you might each have a divorce coach to help you work through the emotional issues that can often stall the process or a single neutral coach who facilitates communication as you work through your differences and the collaborative process. Where applicable, you have access to a child specialist who gives voice to your children’s needs and concerns and ensures that the interests of the children remain in focus during the process. The child specialist assists in developing a parenting plan that takes into consideration the specific needs of your children. There is a neutral financial advisor who collects financial information in order to evaluate the current needs of the family to provide an understanding of your financial future. All meetings with professionals are held in a private setting.
The Collaborative Divorce process helps parents focus on the needs of their children. The child specialist can help your children identify and communicate their needs, wants, and concerns. By avoiding the battles of a litigated divorce you are better able to co-parent during the divorce and after.
The needs and resources of each individual family will determine which and how many professionals are necessary. Divorce is not just a legal process. The Collaborative approach addresses the emotional and financial needs as well. The number of professionals involved in a collaborative divorce is similar to those involved in a typical traditional divorce. The advantage of Collaborative Divorce is that you choose the professionals you work with. These professionals are trained to work cooperatively which streamlines the process and minimizes duplication of efforts. As a result the Collaborative Divorce process is more cost effective.
Your spouse may be resistant to any suggestions you make at this point. The key to someone deciding to choose the Collaborative process is information. The best way to get information is to meet with a trained Collaborative professional. Depending on what issues are most important to you, you can meet individually or together with an attorney, divorce coach, child specialist or financial planner. Any of these professionals can schedule a consultation to provide information about the process.
Simply put, as long as both spouses are committed to the well being of their children, full disclosure of information, and moving on to a better situation for the whole family, YES! While you began your marriage with good intentions, you now believe that a divorce is your family’s best option. Divorces can begin with good intentions for the best interests of your children and the future well being of your whole family. Often the traditional approaches do not provide the support to see those goals through. Collaborative Divorce focuses on a productive use of your time and money for a result that will help all family members move ahead with a sense of security and your parental relationships intact, or maybe even improved. It is a process rooted in communication, setting goals, listening and is controlled by you and your spouse. Choosing Collaborative Divorce provides the best opportunity for your children to grow up with the support and cooperation of both parents. The future milestones in your children’s lives such as graduations and weddings can be celebrated by all.
At times the Collaborative Process may become difficult. The Collaborative team is trained to help navigate the parties through these difficult times. However, you or your spouse may withdraw if you feel a settlement cannot be reached. In accordance with the participation agreement, you would both then have to hire new attorneys to litigate the case in court. The prospect of having to “start over” in this way is the motivation that keeps everyone committed and focused on reaching a settlement. Even in the event you end up in court, you may have resolved many issues in the Collaborative Process.
Collaborative Divorce differs from traditional litigation in that it is a voluntary, non-adversarial, and confidential process that allows you, the client, and your spouse to retain much of the control over the outcome of your divorce. Both you and your spouse will have an attorney by your side during the process to advise you and protect your interests. In Collaborative Divorce both attorneys are committed to helping you reach a settlement that you feel is right for your family. You will also have the expertise of financial, parenting and mental health professionals at the negotiations to help you make sound decisions during this difficult time of transition.
In traditional divorce your attorney will handle most of the negotiations while preparing for a trial in front of a judge who then decides the outcome. In all cases communications between you and your attorney are confidential, but in traditional divorce, hearings and trials are open to the public.
Even if your case settles prior to trial the emotional and financial costs spent on hearings and preparation for trial can be devastating. Collaborative Divorce allows you to think about settlement from the start. It allows all of your emotional and financial resources to be targeted toward reaching a settlement that works for your family, not one a judge decides. You can avoid doing battle with your spouse and causing harm to your children in the process.
Mediation is an alternative to litigation but unlike Collaborative Divorce you are not represented by an attorney or other professionals during the process. A mediator is a neutral party, not necessarily an attorney, who will help facilitate negotiations between you and your spouse but cannot advise either of you.
In Collaborative Divorce you each have your own collaboratively trained counsel. In Mediation, a trained mediator works with both of you and assists you in reaching an agreement. A mediator will not provide you with independent legal advice. In either model, a team can be built to bring efficiency and focus where needed, such as using a Child Specialist in a parenting challenge, or a Financial Professional on a tax or financial planning question. You have choices and options, all individuated to your circumstances.
No. If the primary issue is child-focused, parenting issues might best be mediated by a Child Specialist or Parenting Coach/Coordinator. If the primary issue is finance-focused, the issue might best be mediated by a Financial Professional. An attorney mediator will not provide independent legal advice to either of you as the mediator does not represent you in the traditional sense of lawyer/client relationships. However, the attorney mediator can and does provide legal information and can and does prepare the court forms and the agreement for court approval. In many situations, it is appropriate to co-mediate, so that all aspects of your divorce are fully addressed in an efficient process.
In the end, the cost of collaborative divorce is usually lower than a litigated divorce because results are produced more efficiently. There is a better outcome for all and it costs less than traditional divorce litigation. Always, the value to you and your family far exceeds the cost.
The collaborative divorce process eliminates the wasted time in courts during litigated divorces. Countless hours and dollars are spent while you wait in court hallways. You argue about the exchange of information. You wait for other people’s arguments to end. You can save on those lawyer bills by taking the collaborative route.
Due to the expertise brought by each collaborative professional, you come to agreements more efficiently. The Family Specialist works with you both on communication and on parenting matters, if you have children. A Financial Neutral partners closely with you to gather and organize financial information. Thus, your attorney can be there to provide counsel that focuses on your interests and the law.
Because of this, you get a coordinated, collaborative approach. There is a high level of attention to your family’s needs. Your relational, financial, and legal needs are served by the experts in an integrated way. The collaborative team is always mindful to minimize time spent on the process and still produce results.
Jennifer L. Champagne, MA, is a licensed professional counselor whose practice is devoted exclusively to the emotional and parenting issues of divorce.
The role of the Collaborative Divorce Attorney includes fully protecting the client’s interests while adhering to the principles of fair negotiations in an alternative dispute resolution process. A Collaborative Attorney, in concert with all the participants in a collaborative divorce process, agrees to make full disclosure of relevant information to ensure fair negotiations. This departure from the traditional role of zealously guarding only the client’s direct interests is arranged through the Collaborative Agreement to create an atmosphere where parties are able to come together on issues while feeling supported, informed and empowered to make decisions that will positively affect their future and the future of their family. By agreement of the parties, including the attorney’s client, the Collaborative Divorce Lawyer acts not only as an advocate, but also as a resource, an educator, and a protector of the collaborative process.
A Collaborative Divorce Attorney will be by your side throughout the entire process of reaching a comprehensive and fair agreement with your spouse. Your attorney will provide legal advice helping you to determine what your rights and responsibilities are and what laws apply to your situation. They will also advise you on the benefits and drawbacks of all settlement proposals to help you be comfortable in knowing you are making informed decisions. When needed, your attorney will be able to assist you in advocating and communicating your interests to ensure they are fully considered. In short, your Collaborative Lawyer is not only your guide throughout this complicated process but is there to protect your rights and interests and to ensure your agreement meets your needs, while also keeping everyone focused on the common goal of a fair and equitable agreement.
A Collaborative Divorce Attorney is an advocate for their client within a collaborative dispute resolution setting. By contrast, a Mediator is by definition a “neutral” within the Mediation process, which is a different type of dispute resolution than the Collaborative Divorce process. A Mediator’s role is to act as a guide and to help develop options for parties to consider as they work toward mutual agreement on the terms of an agreement. A Mediator cannot represent, provide legal advice to, or advocate for, either party. A Mediator will not advise parties as to what is fair and reasonable under the circumstances, or define the benefits and drawbacks as they relate to each party, as doing so could jeopardize their neutrality.
Robyn R. Klaskin, Attorney, is a Founding Member of DSC. Her practice is dedicated to guiding people through divorce and difficult family conflicts with privacy, respect and civility, to achieve the best result for the children and the family.
There are three divorce processes that fall into two general categories. The types of divorce are adversarial and non-adversarial. An adversarial divorce is contested, whereby spouses are unable to reach an agreement on the key issues such as division of property, child support, spousal support, among others. Therefore, all areas of conflict are dealt with via litigation in court. A non-adversarial divorce is uncontested, whereby spouses are able to reach an agreement on all the issues and do not require court intervention to rule on the issues. Divorces that are non-adversarial usually cost less, are less emotional and require little to no court time other than to put an Agreement on the record.
Mediation and Collaboration are the two non-adversarial alternatives to litigation. Whether resolving issues via mediation with a neutral third party who serves as a facilitator, or via collaboration, where each spouse retains independent collaborative representation, the parties avoid court-imposed orders and resolve their issues in a private setting.
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