Collaboration is a dignified divorce process involving mutual respect and creative solutions.
Collaborative divorce is an alternate way to get divorced without the usual negativity of traditional divorce negotiation or litigation. Collaborative law was invented by a Minnesota lawyer named Stuart Webb, who had tired of the adversarial nature of traditional divorce.
Many attorneys have since received special training in the collaborative process and are representing spouses in divorce throughout the nation and even in some other countries.
Collaborative divorce basics
The underpinnings of collaborative divorce are respect, honesty and creativity. Persistence can also be helpful at times. The parties enter into a participation agreement in which they agree to the process, including these important aspects:
- The terms of the divorce are negotiated through a series of four-way meetings attended by each client plus his or her collaboratively trained lawyer.
- The parties agree to conduct themselves with mutual respect.
- Very significantly, each spouse agrees to be honest and forthcoming with all information related to finances and assets. Being able to trust each other to do this is key because there will be no formal discovery process like there is in court.
- The parties will jointly hire neutral professionals as needed to provide information and support such as financial experts, real estate brokers, appraisers, parenting experts, child specialists and others.
- An expert called a divorce coach with special mental health training can help the parties handle emotional issues that come up in the process, get past impasses in negotiation and learn communication techniques.
- The parties agree not to go to court and that if the process breaks down, each must hire a new lawyer to proceed with mediation or traditional divorce.
- The lawyers will help the parties draft a separation agreement that contains resolution to all issues in the divorce like alimony, child support and custody, visitation or parenting time, property division and others.
Advocates of collaboration feel that it can be less harmful to the individuals involved, especially children, to forego the adversarial and aggressive posture that can be required in a traditional divorce. Especially for parents of young children who will have to work together to raise their kids even after the marriage is over, collaboration can help forge a new kind of relationship.
Collaborative divorce is not appropriate for all couples. For example, a spouse may not be trustworthy or is likely to be disrespectful or controlling. In more serious situations that may involve a history of domestic abuse or violence, substance addiction or mental illness, collaboration should not be attempted.
It can be very hard work to work through difficult personal issues with someone who the other spouse may feel has wronged or hurt them in some way, but if the issues are not as serious as some of these negative factors, it may be worth exploring whether collaboration could work.
It is important that anyone facing divorce discuss in detail with an experienced lawyer the features, pros and cons of each available process: collaboration, mediation, traditional negotiation and, if all else fails, a trial in court in which the judge makes decisions on disputed issues. Every spouse, divorce and family is unique, so a client should share his or her story with legal counsel to come to an informed decision about which process is likely to bring a positive solution.
The attorneys at Stange Law Firm with several offices throughout Missouri, Illinois, Kansas and Oklahoma represent clients in collaborative divorce, mediation and traditional divorce, including litigation when appropriate.