The traditional method of divorce litigation is for each spouse to hire a lawyer, file for divorce, and then go through a contentious process of either negotiating a settlement or fighting it out in court. This process can be very costly and often leaves hard feelings between the spouses and their families. Another option is a meditation, where one mediator will help the two spouses come to an agreement on things like property division and child custody. The problem with mediation is that nobody is representing the interests of each spouse individually. The shortfalls of these two methods have led to the rise of another process, called collaborative divorce.
The collaborative divorce process
In a collaborative divorce, each spouse will hire their own attorney. Instead of heading to court, however, the two attorneys will seek a settlement through a non-adversarial, private process. This means the two lawyers, the spouses, and sometimes additional professionals will meet to discuss the issues openly and try to find an amicable solution. They commit to share information freely and work collaboratively. That means that each side will have access to private records that would not otherwise be shared in a traditional litigated divorce. As a result, if the process breaks down each lawyer must withdraw from the representation and the spouses will have to hire new lawyers to represent them in court. If, on the other hand, all goes well in the collaborative process, the spouses will wind up with an agreement that can be presented to a court to be finalized.
Benefits of the collaborative process
The collaborative process is largely a reaction to problems with other procedures. The parties agree to share information freely rather than engage in costly court procedures to force information sharing. Instead of leaving each spouse to stand up for themselves in a mediation, a lawyer is hired to represent each spouse’s interest. That means that the collaborative process can save some money compared to litigation, and it may be less painful that going through mediation. Collaboration may be the best way to get through a divorce while saving dignity and privacy.
Requirements for a successful collaborative divorce
A successful collaborative divorce only works for couples that have some desire to work together in the divorce process. They must both truly be seeking a divorce, as one spouse trying to avoid divorce may sabotage the process. The spouses must be on good terms. They will need to share information that they could otherwise try to keep secret, and each needs to be respectful of the desires of the other spouse. Marriages involving abuse or fraud are not good candidates for a collaborative process. There is also some level of trust involved. If one spouse suspects the other is hiding assets he or she should probably seek divorce in court where a judge can order information to be shared. A collaborative process also requires the spouses be able to agree on child care disputes without being forced by a judge.