Collaborative Divorce is an innovative method for approaching a divorce, as it enables parties to resolve their disputes and end their marriage with minimal court involvement. Many couples are finding collaborative law a welcome alternative to traditional divorce litigation, which can often result in considerable emotional and financial cost to the entire family. Collaborative law allows a team of specially trained interdisciplinary professionals to guide and support parties in a problem-solving process, not as adversaries.
To begin the Collaborative Divorce process, the parties must each retain their own collaboratively-trained attorneys who agree, in writing, to work together to help the couple reach a mutually beneficial settlement without having to go to court. The parties meet privately with their respective attorneys and may retain additional experts to join the team. Typically those experts include a psychologist or other mental health professional, sometimes referred to as the divorce coach, and a financial professional, who work with the attorneys to provide unbiased expert advice and guide the parties towards an amicable resolution.
In the event that the parties are unable to reach an agreement and one or both of the parties elect to take the matter to court, the attorneys and other team members are disqualified from representing either party or otherwise participating in the adversarial proceedings. This requirement incentivizes the parties and the attorneys to cooperate and problem-solve, reduces the likelihood of excess conflict, and enables the parties to efficiently resolve their disputes.
While it may seem at first glance that the addition of the mental health and financial professional would increase the cost of the divorce, many people who choose to pursue a Collaborative Divorce find that the overall cost ends up being far less than if they had elected to litigate their case in court. This is due to the cooperative nature of the process and the requirement for full transparency–the parties and their attorneys agree in writing to disclose fully and immediately all relevant information and documentation. Keeping secrets and hiding information is not permitted. This reduces the need for costly discovery practices typical in contested litigation.
A Collaborative Divorce, generally speaking, usually takes less time than if it had been processed through an adversarial, litigated process, because issues are addressed and resolved through the convening of participatory meetings, rather than processed through the court system. Most couples will need between four to six meetings with their collaborative team to resolve all of their issues, with homework assigned to the couple between meetings. Depending on the complexity of the issues in your divorce, some couples take less time and some take more.
Collaborative Law is a non-adversarial process that views a family in divorce as a family in crisis that has a series of problems to be solved, rather than a series of battles to be fought. The end goal is to meet the legitimate needs of everyone involved in a restructured family while reducing the financial and emotional costs of a divorce.
Attorneys Diane Messer and Caitlin Elledge of Sobieski, Messer & Elledge are specially trained in collaborative divorce and are committed to helping clients work together to solve their problems in a constructive and non-adversarial manner.