What is Collaborative Divorce and How Does it Work?
In a Collaborative Divorce, the couple make their own decisions about ending their marriage and arrangements for their children, and do not go to court. Collaborative Divorce encourages couples to part in a more dignified and amicable manner. An agreed resolution is reached in a confidential setting with the assistance of lawyers and other experts who are trained in the Collaborative Divorce process and who have agreed, with the couple's consent, to work together to meet the couple's joint goals and expectations for their children, rather than each fighting aggressively for an individual client. The lawyers' commitment to work together is a unique feature of the Collaborative Divorce and does not occur in Mediation.
The Collaborative method works via a series of individual and combined meetings in which the couple and their professional team discuss concerns and interests, gather information and develop possible options. The result is a written divorce agreement which includes a co-parenting plan when the couple has minor children. The involvement of the team is a unique feature of the Collaborative Process in comparison to Mediation with a single faciltator.
The number of meetings varies from case to case, according to the specific needs of the clients and the complexities of the decisions. Because everyone is working together to achieve mutual goals, the Collaborative Process is usually faster, less expensive, and less stressful than a traditional litigated divorce.
The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals website at www.collaborativepractice.com has a wealth of information about Collaborative Divorce and its advantages, including a free Collaborative Divorce Knowledge Kit.
Collaborative Divorce differs from traditional divorce in these ways:
- You don't go to court, you maintain control over the decisions
- Focus is on the future not the past
- Discussions are face-to-face
- Everyone has a "win-win" focus
- A full team of experts supports both parties
- Professionals provide quick answers to legal and financial questions
- Parents receive expert advice on developing a co-parenting plan
- The process foster's cooperation and communication between the couple
- The children have a voice through the child specialist
- The focus is not on who has custody but on how to co-parent as the children transition into having two homes
Collaborative Divorce goes beyond mediation in significant ways.
- There is no team of experts supporting the couple as they discuss options
- Attorneys are not generally present during the negotiations
- Attorneys frequently maintain an adversarial posture when consulted outside of the mediation sessions
- There is little support for the spouse who is less knowledgeable about finances
- The timid or angry spouse may find it hard to advocate for himself or herself in mediation
Designed as an alternative to traditional divorce, a Collaborative Divorce offers many distinct advantages:
- Meetings are private and confidential instead of in open court
- Children's needs are given priority
- An atmosphere of respect preserves self esteem and long-term relationships
- There is full disclosure of facts and information
- Face-to-face meetings, with a team of professionals present, make negotiations direct and efficient
- The couple keeps control of the decisions made
- The swifter, more amicable process results in less emotional "baggage" and sets the tone for respectful future communication
Because it focuses on a “win – win” approach rather than an “I win – you lose” approach, the Collaborative method is especially well suited to co-parenting situations and the desire to keep children from being in court in the middle of custody battles.
Many couples have found that Collaborative Divorce is a welcome alternative to the potentially destructive aspects of traditional divorce. To determine if the Collaborative Process is right for you, ask yourself if these values are important:
- Maintaining an atmosphere of respect, even in the presence of disagreements
- As parents, you want to prioritize the needs of your children
- Listening objectively as the needs of all sides are given equal consideration
- Working creatively and cooperatively to solve issues
- Seeing beyond the frustration and pain of the present moment to plan for the future
- Keeping control of the separation process and not leaving decisions to the court system
The only pre-requisite is that both of you must to be willing to sit down with each other. and the Collaborative team members, and talk. Even if trust has been broken and you have difficulty discussing anything together, you will have the support of a team trained in using Collaborative methods and committed to help you both through this difficult time.
If couples can work out everything between themselves without any help divorce can be cheap. Unfortunately most couples must rely on outside help and must select the level of help they need to reach resolution.
Mediation is frequently a quick, efficient and cost effective way to reach agreement if both parties are willing and able to work closely together. If they are not able to do that then of the alternatives, statistics show that the Collaborative Process ordinarily results in resolution at far less expense — both financial and emotional — than a traditional litigated divorce because everyone is working together to achieve mutual goals.
Rather than using funds to fight aggressively in court to build cases against each other, Collaborative Divorce allows you to invest directly in your future. You and the Collaborative team of experts work together to understand and make important financial and parenting plans, and learn better ways to communicate with each other.
Collaborative professionals work as a team. The team approach provides legal and financial expertise, as well as emotional support.
Collaborative Divorce Lawyers
Individuals facing divorce are each represented by their own lawyer who advises them on all matters of law, from child custody and support to spousal maintenance to property distribution. Together they clarify each client's needs and interests as they work toward developing a win-win agreement.
Coaches are licensed mental health professionals and family specialists who assist each spouse in managing the emotions of the divorce and help the couple learn communication skills beneficial for the Collaborative Process. As the couple works with their team in the process, coaches help them maintain a focus on present and future goals.
The Financial Specialist is a neutral financial consultant who reviews assets and income and helps develop viable financial options for both spouses. Collaborative financial specialists provide expertise and skills that help the team find livable solutions, resolve impasses and avoid unwanted consequences.
Child Specialists are key collaborative team members when a couple with children is divorcing. A licensed mental health professional, the child specialist evaluates the needs of the children and offers parents information that will help them make plans in the best interest of the children.
To get started, contact a Collaborative team member in your area.
You will find contact information on this web site for the members of the Fredericksburg Area Collaborative Professionals who practice Collaborative Divorce in the Fredericksburg and Northern Neck areas of Virginia. Those listed have all completed the training and experience requirements necessary to practice Collaborative Divorce. Members maintain separate offices but share a common interest in providing this service to clients.
We encourage you to contact one of them and make an appointment for a consultation. Take that first step to explore what Collaborative Divorce can offer you, your spouse, and your children.