Same-sex couples seeking to dissolve a marriage or civil union have three basic options: litigation (court-based action), mediation and collaborative divorce. In this post, I will discuss the latter. Collaborative divorce is a process whereby the spouses and their collaboratively-trained lawyers work together, often with the assistance of a neutral financial professional and a coach, to reach a fair divorce agreement.
Unlike traditional court-based divorce (litigation), the participants in a collaborative divorce are empowered to make their own decisions rather than to rely on a judge to do so. The divorcing spouses and their collaborative team work together to form an agreement based upon the individual needs and interests of the couple (and their children, if they have any).
The participants sign an agreement stating that they will not litigate the case in court. They agree to share all information required to facilitate the process and don’t hide information from anyone in the process. If one of the participants breaks the agreement and takes the case to court, the collaborative lawyers and other professionals are discharged from the case and will not participate in the litigation.
Collaborative divorce is usually less expensive than traditional divorce for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, because the process takes place outside the courtroom, the spouses do not incur fees for multiple court battles (which often require hours of waiting around in the hallway waiting for your case to be called). When assets need to be properly valued, the participants work with a neutral financial professional (who is also collaboratively trained). By sharing this professional resource, the participants pay a much lower fee and the process is often expedited.
There is an enormous emotional component to every divorce which can often cause one or both of the spouses to feel considerable anxiety. The collaborative approach recognizes this basic human element and factors it in to the process. When needed, a neutral coach works with the couple to help them with the emotional aspects of difficult issues and helps to promote productive communication.
The participants are represented by separate lawyers who are there to advise them about the complicated legal issues. However, unlike traditional divorce, a lawyer is not there to try to convince a judge to give his or her client exactly what that client wants – without regard for the needs and interests of the couple (and their children). The collaborative lawyer’s job is to refocus the participants on their common goals, which include being able to meet future financial needs, to have well-adjusted children, and to be able to move forward with as little disruption and trauma as possible.
Collaborative divorce may not be suitable for all couples. However, a candid discussion with a collaboratively-trained attorney will help you decide if the process is right for you.
For more information, visit Collaborative Divorce Professionals.