What exactly is a “Collaborative Divorce”?
When you hear about someone getting a divorce, you probably picture a courtroom and a lot of ill will. It is the most common form of divorce, but it is not by any means the best or only way to go about it. A Collaborative Divorce is a form of divorce that is becoming more and more popular, as it’s generally focused on amicable resolutions.
- The couple must have a commitment to finding a MUTUALLY beneficial resolution
- The couple will have to make a promise not to take the case to court
- The couple must agree to a free exchange of information
What makes a Collaborative Divorce different than Mediation?
They may seem similar, but they are not the same:
- In a Collaborative Divorce, each party has their attorney present to act as their advocate and assist them in dealing with any problems that might crop up.
- In Mediation, there is an impartial third party helping to reach a resolution but they cannot give legal advice.
In a collaborative process, the attorneys are not there as adversaries. They are present to work together in reaching a satisfactory conclusion. Once a mutually beneficial conclusion has been reached, the lawyers will draft settlement terms for everyone to look over and sign.
Does a Collaborative Divorce have benefits over a standard divorce?
Yes, definitely. A collaborative process is much better for the people involved than a litigated divorce. The only thing stopping it from being the most popular method is that it requires a couple to work together, at least temporarily. By the time most people get to the point of divorce, they can barely stand to look at each other let alone be cooped up in a room with each other negotiating an agreement.
Collaborative Divorce will be much better for you in the long run. It involves:
- Less stress – The goal of a collaborative divorce is for each participant to have a hand in negotiating an agreement that is good for everyone.
It will allow you to salvage what is left of your relationship and maybe even part on good terms.
- Less money – Since the court is not involved in a Collaborative Divorce, there are a lot fewer fees to pay.
- Much less trauma for your children – Having to watch their parents tear each other apart in a messy divorce proceeding can have long lasting effects on your children. A collaborative approach is much healthier because it removes the conflict in the situation.
- A focus on getting results – Instead of fighting for control, you and your spouse can come together to discuss and solve problems. Since you will be working as a team, you will achieve your goals much faster than in a standard divorce.
Is a Collaborative Divorce a new idea or has it always been in use?
It has been around since the 1990’s but for a legal proceeding that is fairly new. It all started with a man named Stu Webb. He had been practicing as a divorce attorney for 26 years, and he decided it was time to quit. He just felt too worn out from the constant conflict involved in his day to day divorce cases.
Stu was quoted as saying “It wasn’t so much fun practicing law in an adversarial way,” and “I hated my litigation practice.”
Before he took down his shingle, he had an interesting idea. Why not try an approach to divorce that avoided all the conflict and stress? He was about to quit, so it couldn’t hurt to try.
The idea was simple: he and another attorney would get together to work toward a settlement with a couple that had pledged not to take the matter to court. It worked out better than he had ever expected. Stu continued his experiment with other couples and shared the information with like-minded attorneys across the nation. The practice came to be known as a Collaborative Divorce.
In the beginning, Collaborative Law only involved other lawyers but in the mid-1990’s the interdisciplinary model took root in San Francisco. Mental health professionals began teaming up with attorneys to support families as Divorce Coaches and Child Specialists. Psychologists Peggy Thompson and Rodney Nurse, and social worker Nancy Ross, were some of the pioneers of this new practice. The last piece of the puzzle fell into place when financial specialists were added to the Collaborative Team.
Now this low stress, anti-conflict type of divorce is being practiced in twenty-three countries around the world.
What are the roles of the professionals on a Collaborative Team?
There are quite a few people involved in a collaborative divorce, but each one has a specific part to play. There will be:
- Two attorneys who will assist the couple in negotiating a mutually beneficial agreement. They will also help to file the necessary paperwork when the process has concluded.
- A Financial Specialist to assist in gathering the critical financial documentation. They will also help the couple to gauge what kind of financial repercussions their decisions may create.
- Divorce Coaches will help the couple to build the negotiating and self-management skills needed to make the process a success.
- A Child Specialist acts as the children’s voice in the process to ensure the parents look out for the children’s needs.