Even when both sides agree the marriage is over, divorce is never easy. While some cases can be hostile and involve aggressive litigation tactics, your divorce does not have to be this way. If you and your husband or wife are committed to being cooperative and fair with each other or want to put your child’s needs above all else, a Collaborative Divorce may be a good idea.
Understanding Collaborative Divorce
A Collaborative divorce model is a form of alternative dispute resolution where both sides agree to be open regarding all of the issues in their case. With the aid of their collaborative attorneys who are trained in this unique process, each side will work cooperatively through their differences. The parties will enter into an agreement to keep the divorce case out of court. The attorneys and clients agree if the process does not lead to a resolution, their counsel will withdraw so they can hire new attorneys to proceed to litigation.
Collaborative divorce allows both sides to use professionals to help clarify issues. For example, a child therapist (who is a neutral third party) may assist and give the choice a voice in the process, allowing parents to make better decisions about placement and custody; A property appraiser could provide a neutral evaluation of the family home, rather than using multiple experts to provide competing opinions; Collaborative coaches may be used to assist each person in processing all the emotions associated with divorce, and allow joint discussions to help with negotiation and resolution when emotions would otherwise get in the way; and a Financial Specialist (also a neutral) can help the couple understand financial issues and create options to consider for dividing income and property.
By taking a collaborative approach, the couple can operate with mutual respect and problem-solve rather than fight over the details of the divorce. Those who are thinking about using the Collaborative divorce process may want to ask the following questions:
- Are my spouse and I willing to cooperate and be open? If you genuinely feel you can trust your partner and the process, Collaborative divorce may be a good option.
- Do I feel comfortable and safe negotiating with my spouse? Trying to work peacefully with an abusive partner is not a good idea. Even when there has not been domestic violence or other abuse, if you feel intimidated by your spouse, open negotiation may not be in your best interest.
- Is it important to me to end the marriage as positively as possible? If you are invested in maintaining a good relationship after the marriage is over for your kids or for your peace of mind, Collaborative divorce may be a good choice.
- Are my spouse and I on the same page when it comes to decisions about our minor children? If you are fighting over custody or have very different ideas about school or medical care, the collaborative process may not be as useful as other forms of divorce.
Being able to divorce cooperatively reduces stress on the family and can assist you in respectfully reaching an agreement that is fair to both sides. For parents, Collaborative divorce can help create a parenting plan that emotionally supports the children and promotes effective co-parenting. For the couple, using this process allows both people to leave the marriage equitably and with a deeper understanding of one another, and lead to better future co-parenting.
Collaborative divorce can be a beneficial process, but it is not right for everyone.