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What is a Collaborative Divorce?  Top 5 Questions About the Process

Oct. 9, 2022

When faced with a divorce, many people would like to avoid the court process and the knock-down, drag-out conflicts that can come with it.  If you find yourself in this position, you have three options: mediation, kitchen-table divorce, and Collaborative divorce.  In all three of these, the parties can address physical and legal custody of children, division of assets and debts of the marriage, and child and spousal support, among other issues.   

In mediation, the parties meet with a neutral mediator who helps the parties work through one or more issues that have arisen in their case.  Once the parties are satisfied that these issues have been settled, one or both of the parties hires an attorney to put the final agreement in place and process the legal paperwork with the court.   

In a so-called kitchen-table divorce, each party hires an attorney.  The parties and their counsel work cooperatively and exchange information.  Sometimes the parties and their counsel meet to come an agreement and other times proposals go back and forth between the parties until there is a settlement in the case. 

1. So, What is Collaborative Divorce? 

Collaborative divorce is a process during which families and collaboratively-trained professionals work as a team to resolve the family’s custody, asset division, and support issues. 

2. Who is Part of the Team?

The team may include the parties, an attorney for each of the parties, a neutral financial professional, a neutral collaborative coach, and other experts to address challenges that might arise.  The attorneys and other professionals must be trained in the collaborative process.   

3. Will I Get What I Deserve? 

The collaborative process does not focus on what the law says you are entitled to.  Instead, it focuses on the specific needs of the family.  The team may examine works schedules, budgets, retirement goals and needs, among other things while working towards a settlement that works for everyone. 

4. Is It Less Expensive than Litigation?

It depends.  As in all legal matters, it is hard to determine what the costs of a collaborative divorce will be.  It will depend on the complexities of the case and the level of cooperation of the parties.  Ordinarily, collaborative divorces have a higher up-front cost because there are two or more professionals involved from the very beginning.  However, parties often save in the long run as compared to the litigation process because they avoid doubling up on expert fees by sharing the costs of neutral experts and avoid the often very expensive discovery process and trial preparation costs of litigation.   

5. Why Choose the Collaborative Process?

The collaborative process is often seen as the healthiest way to get a divorce.  The parties control the process and make the decisions instead of having a stranger apply a cookie-cutter solution to their case.  There is often less stress in the collaborative process and the parties are generally better equipped to have a workable relationship moving forward.  This is particularly important if children are involved.  The process can be handled privately so that your grievances are not aired to anyone interested enough to look.  And the collaborative process allows you to address your specific situation, to use creativity and avoid arbitrary legal requirements.