When people think of divorce, they may become overwhelmed with anxiety, fear the bickering and ill will, and dread the lawyers who will drag things out and create hostility between you as a couple. The fact is that there are many lawyers out there who make these fears and stereotypes a reality, but there are also lawyers who pride themselves in making the process of a divorce as painless, and as human as possible. Some of the lawyers who most personify this, are the ones who practice what is known as “Collaborative Divorce.” What is collaborative divorce? It Is when the couple works together with their attorneys to come to a resolution in a positive and results oriented way. Individuals can agree to all details, come to a resolution, and never must step foot in a courtroom, which is very attractive to many.
Some things can only work in a collaborative divorce setting. If the couple becomes contentious, refuses to bend or compromise, or makes it clear that they cannot work in a productive manner, the lawyers must recuse themselves, and lawyers who handle what we think of traditional divorce must take over. However, this should also be a wake-up call and defining moment to each member of the couple. They need to look at their role in things not working out, and if they are capable and willing to try again in a more productive and positive manner.
When a couple enters a collaborative divorce setting, they start by signing a contract. This contract is a written commitment stating that the promise to practice good faith and fair-mindedness in their interactions and negotiations. They also promise to be transparent with all transcript documentation from hearings and meetings, finances, and needed paperwork. The couple and their lawyers meet in a neutral setting, and there is no third-party mediator involved. It is simply the couple and their collaborative attorneys, and a promise by all to be constructive and open-minded in their dealings. Working in good faith, and with a collaborative mindset is best for each member of the couple, their children, and all their futures. No one wants to go through the process of negotiations, only to have them implode and must start over with new attorneys, and from a more adversarial stand-point.
Collaborative divorce gives each party a chance to listen more than they argue, and explain themselves in a way that they feel they are not being judged. Each person can explain what they feel they need and why, and the mediators are able to suggest solutions to meet each person’s needs in a fair and equitable way. Another benefit of this process is the ability to bring in additional resources as needed, to help keep the process moving forward in a productive way, and to keep all information out in the open for everyone. Some of these additional resources can include a therapist, an accountant, and an assessor. With both members of the couple working with these individuals, they know that everything is above board, and that they are getting the best information for which to make decisions based on.
If you are about to start the process of divorce, Collaborative Divorce is something that you should really consider, especially if children are involved. It takes much of the anger and adversarial feelings out of the process, it gets both members of the couple working towards the same goals, and it allows each person to be heard and understood in a way they may not have been with traditional divorce. Many couples I have known, who have gone this route, have been very grateful that they made this decision. It made a difficult process and situation as amenable as possible, and it let each person walk away with some dignity and respect for themselves, and their ex-partner.