Differences Between Collaborative Divorce and Fixed Fee, Uncontested Divorce
When many see these terms, they think they mean the same thing. To many individuals, collaborative divorce is the same thing as an uncontested, flat fee divorce.
The really is that these are not one in the same. The difference is also much more semantics. Some legal professionals may offer flat rate, uncontested divorce services where there may be minimal assets, there are no kids and/or where there is one-hundred percent agreement on all terms related to the divorce. In many of these cases as well, one party has an attorney, but the other is representing themselves without one.
For many who are going through divorce, an uncontested, flat fee divorce is not a good option for them. They might, for example, have a high net worth where there are lots of complex asset that require a thorough analysis as to any proposed division, including valuations of assets and a tax analysis.
They also might not agree completely on custody and parenting time issues. Maybe they both agree that both should have frequent and meaningful contact with the children, but perhaps they disagree on what exactly that means.
One party may also not be comfortable (and understandably so) without having any attorney given the long and short term impacts of divorce. When both sides have an attorney, however, negotiations often has to take place on the essential terms.
Additionally, in many divorces, the parties may agree on a lot of the terms. But they may not agree on all of it. There may be one, two or several issues where the parties just do not see eye to eye.
In any of these circumstances, a flat fee, uncontested divorce is likely not workable. This is where collaborative divorce can often help where both parties wish to settle, but where the case is not simple or easy.
What is Collaborative Practice?
Collaborative divorce is a distinct process through the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“IACP”). Attorneys receive training in mediation and the collaborative process (known as interdisciplinary training) to represent clients through the collaborative process. Only a limited number of attorneys usually go through this training in any locality or are members of the IACP.
During the collaborative process, both parties have representation to advise them about the pros and cons of any settlement. Collaborative professionals are also utilized to help with tricky issues. For example, a divorce coach, financial neutral and child custody professional can all help with emotions, finances and child custody/parenting time. These professionals are utilized in private meetings outside of court where the parties work together at arm’s length to try to reach an agreement.
The goal of collaborative divorce is to help get cases to settle amicably outside of court. At the same time, collaborative divorce ensures there is a thoroughness to the process because getting a divorce done right is almost always more important for most parties than getting it done quick. This is especially true where there are sizable assets and children.
Collaborative divorce can also help parties who want to settle (but who do not agree on all to terms) to get to the place where there is one-hundred percent agreement on all terms. For example, to settle a divorce parties have to agree completely on property and debt division, child custody/parenting time, child support, spousal support and the apportionment of attorney’s fees. A disagreement on just one issue can prevent parties from concluding their divorce in an uncontested manner.
The reality is that most parties have some areas of disagreement when going through divorce. This is why many individuals should at least consider the option of collaborative divorce.