Collaborative family law is an established process for ending a marriage with a team of professionals trained in non-ligated dispute resolution. A collaborative divorce process combines divorce mediation and a traditional divorce with attorneys. The team may also include other specialists such as a financial analyst, a child specialist (as the voice of the children), and communication coaches working together to support and guide a couple through a structured “Collaborative” process.
The goal is to create a win-win solution that meets the needs of both sides without litigation. Collaborative divorce attorneys and the advisors who support the dissolution commit to resolving conflict, not creating it.
It is generally less costly and a more peaceful alternative than battling it out in court. While it can be challenging to let your anger and resentment go, if it is possible to dissolve your marriage peacefully, why not give it a chance?
That said, both parties need to be committed to the process for the process to work. If you are married to someone who has to win at any cost, a collaborative divorce will probably not work.
If you need support mastering your mindset or beliefs, click here to download the Mindset Mastery Guide.
This guide will help you develop more confidence and self-esteem, so you can handle the challenges that you encounter.
The Collaborative Divorce Process
In a collaborative divorce, both parties must be willing to negotiate in good faith and agree not to take the case to court.
At the beginning of the process, both parties, their attorneys, and other neutral professionals sign a “participation agreement.” As a result of this agreement, the attorneys are disqualified from representing either party in court if the collaborative process isn’t successful.
Generally, both parties will meet with their attorneys separately and discuss what they want to achieve. Examples include how to handle child custody and financial support. Then the parties and all professionals will meet together in a team format to create the divorce settlement agreements.
One topic to resolve as a team is determining who will stay in the family home. This might be one of the spouses with children alternating visits with each parent. Or another model is called nesting. In this scenario, the children remain in the family home all the time while the parents alternate staying at the home and leaving when the other parent is responsible for the children’s care. This provides stability and continuity and is less disruptive to the children.
The division of all assets and liabilities may include:
1. Bank accounts, including checking and savings accounts
2. Investment accounts, including stock options and RSU’s (restricted stock units)
3. Insurance policies, including disability, life, and long-term care
4. Property (including real estate and the family home)
5. Social Security benefits (if applicable)
7. Debt, including loans, mortgages, and credit cards
8. Retirement planning, including pension plans, profit sharing plans, 401Ks, IRAs, etc.
9. Personal possessions (clothing, jewelry, furniture, etc.)
11. Family pets
Divorce can be lonely and difficult. If you or a loved one have questions about divorce planning or other financial matters, click here:
The Analysis of Income and Expenses
A critical decision, especially if one spouse’s income is significantly higher than the other partner, is the determination of alimony and child support.
In addition, you must determine how expenses, including debt payments, will be paid.
A comprehensive financial plan can provide you with the majority of financial information you need to prepare for a divorce. The team’s financial neutral Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®), financial advisor, or attorney will prepare several financial settlement options for the team to evaluate.
Once both parties know their goals, they, along with their attorneys, will meet. These meetings may include financial advisors, psychologists, therapists, meditators, and other experts.
In certain situations, a trained mediator may assist the parties if they are having trouble reaching an agreement. The parties assisting the attorneys and clients are neutral and committed to settling the divorce without going to trial.
Benefits of Collaborative Divorce
There are many benefits of an amicable dissolution.
Examples may include:
- Faster and more efficient than traditional divorce
- Less stress knowing that all parties are committed to a peaceful resolution
- Saves time and reduces the cost of a divorce
- Engages professionals in their specific expertise, which allows efficient task allocation
- Focuses on effective co-parenting skills
- Fosters continuing relationships with family and friends
- Can design solutions for unmarried parents, same-gender couples, and non-traditional relationships
- Reduces the risk of a bitter and contentious dispute
- Allows for more control over the outcome. Therefore, it is easier for everyone affected by it.
- Maintains privacy
- Reduces the emotional toll for all involved parties, especially children
Conclusion: What is Collaborative Divorce
Collaborative divorce is an effective alternative to litigation, making a difficult situation easier for all parties, including the children. Some couples have shared that the team approach of Collaborative divorce is like “divorce with a hug.”
And while a divorce is rarely easy, if it is possible to choose an amicable dissolution, why not? The benefits of working together with your ex-spouse or parent of your children can last long after you are divorced.
If you or someone you know needs additional support, download our free Divorce Survival Guide: