COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE – A Better Way to Restructure a Family

No, its not an oxymoron. Collaborative divorce is a relatively new and better way to separate from the bonds of matrimony. When a marriage has failed, the spouses are obviously at odds with each other. Unfortunately, a traditional divorce often makes things worse. Clients lawyer up and the battle is on. By the time its over, the war has left two individuals with more animosity than when the process began. Ever see the movie, The War of the Roses?

Collaborative law is an alternative. Instead of confrontation, discovery battles and the war of witnesses, the parties each hire a specially trained Collaborative attorney. Not a cooperative attorney, but a Collaborative attorney, with a capital C. The parties and their attorneys participate in group meetings. Sometimes, a mental health facilitator or a jointly retained financial consultant may participate in some of these meetings. Some venting may occur initially, but the meetings consist primarily of goal identification, agenda setting, and task assignments. As information comes to the group, brain storming and problem solving become the focus. Financial information is freely and fully shared and nothing is hidden. The lynchpin is the Collaborative Divorce Agreement. The crux of this agreement is that neither party initiates a divorce proceeding in court until the parties reach an agreement, or exhaust all possibility of reaching agreement. If it turns out that an agreement cannot be reached, all agree that the attorneys may not represent the parties in the contested divorce, and the parties must each retain new counsel. If the process is successful, a written settlement agreement is signed by the parties, a divorce complaint is filed. After the statutory waiting period expires, a brief court hearing is held at which the agreement and a proposed judgment are submitted and approved by the family court judge or magistrate.

So whats the benefit of a Collaborative Divorce? First of all, the parties control the outcome. Studies show that couples who reach a settlement of their divorce come back to court less often and have a better post-divorce relationship than those who go through a contested divorce. Most importantly, children are left far less scarred by the process, and the familys dirty laundry is not aired in public. Its not a silver bullet, but neither is it a bazooka.

If you, a friend or relative are considering a divorce, do yourself or them a favor and discuss this alternative. Direct friends and family to this post and to the web sites I will mention below. If you or they have an interest,

Id be happy to discuss this further and provide the names of the other Collaborative Divorce attorneys in the area.

Collaborative Divorce is not for everyone, but it may be just the right solution for your family.