Liat Sadler

Collaborative Divorce

A Collaborative Divorce is a process which is designed to empower the parties to make decisions that are most beneficial to all the parties involved. In a Collaborative Divorce, the parties hire a joint neutral as well as their own individual attorneys, much like mediation. However, unlike in mediation, the parties sign an agreement to not litigate. This means the parties agree to abstain from filing a request with the Court asking for intervention. If either party does file a request with the Court, both parties’ attorneys must withdraw from the case. This is called a Disqualification Clause. Upon entering the Collaborative Divorce process, the parties also agree to be honest and forthcoming with all relevant information. This is a process that is likely to result in a faster, less expensive divorce.

In Collaborative Divorce, the dynamic that led to problems in the relationship is addressed head-on. The parties are supported by other professionals, such as financial accountants or mental health professionals to determine what their needs are. With the attorneys and neutrals, the parties can then work to ensure their needs are met as they transition their family’s life.

With litigation (asking the Court to intervene and make decisions), the parties are on the Court’s timeline. Depending on what county you are in, you could file a request for spousal support which could result in a hearing anywhere from one to four months out from the time it is filed. This is simply when the matter would be heard by the Court, not the time frame in which it would be resolved. Trials are often set a year or so out. In a Collaborative Divorce, the parties are not at the mercy of the Court’s calendar, which is especially helpful in a time when the courts have heavily impacted calendars.

The first step of Collaborative Divorce is to assemble the team. The basic team would be the parties, their own attorneys and a neutral hired jointly. If financial issues are involved, the parties may choose to hire an accountant. If the parties are struggling to co-parent, they may hire a mental health professional or a family counselor. The goal of the team is to empower each party to be their own advocate. Often times in a divorce case, one may feel as if they lost their voice. They hired an attorney to speak on their behalf and thus lost their ability to advocate for themselves. In Collaborative Divorce, the attorney takes on a much different role and is there to support the party to be their own advocate. The attorney will provide the relevant information, point to particular issues, and support their client.

Once the team is assembled, the parties and their team work to assemble all the necessary information. In a typical divorce case, the parties propound discovery. This means they draft demands to one another for items such as bank records within a certain time frame, serve them to the other party and wait a month or so for the response. The parties could object to the discovery or if someone fails to provide any response, and they might have to file a motion in court to get a judge to demand that the other party comply with the demands. The result is a cumbersome amount of records that attorneys must comb through to find the relevant information. This whole process takes months and requires an enormous amount of time, and as a result, excessive fees. In Collaborative Divorce, the parties agree to be forthcoming with information, even if it feels uncomfortable to do so. The discomfort of disclosure pales in comparison to the frustration and anxiety felt by divorcing families as they litigate their disputes in court.

In Collaborative Divorce, the parties and their team meet to flesh out the needs and desires of the parties and form creative solutions to achieve goals. The parties are backed by a team to educate them in all of the decisions they make. Outside of the court, the parties are free to make whatever agreements suit their families. They aren’t hemmed in by the strictures of what the law would require.

Collaborative Divorce allows you the ability to retain the power to make your own decisions. The entire process has an emphasis on openness and honesty. Whatever has happened in your marriage has not worked, thus it cannot be expected to work outside of your marriage. This process allows support from professionals to guide you through a difficult time. It is also a way for parties to continue to have a parenting relationship even though they no longer have a marital relationship. In situations with or without children, it is a way to help the family transition.