What is the difference between collaborative practice and a traditional litigated divorce?

By Joe Spirito
March 14, 2016
collaborative divorce vs. litigated divorce

The traditional litigated divorce is often what most people imagine when they picture divorcing spouses. Parties are individually represented by litigation counsel and each side negotiates their client’s divorce terms before a judge.

In contrast, collaborative practice is a non-adversarial approach. In collaborative divorce, the spouses and their respective attorneys sign an agreement that they will not litigate as they work through the collaborative process. All involved parties agree to communicate openly and work together, emphasizing cooperation and respect over animosity. The spouses and their attorneys then meet and settle their divorce entirely out of court.

Unlike traditional litigation, the spouses in a collaborative divorce are able to set the pace of the process and are not tied to the schedule of the court. Further, the spouses are not dependent on the decisions of a third-party judicial officer. Instead, they can carefully craft the terms of their divorce in a manner that suits the individual needs and circumstances of the parties. Spouses are more likely to avoid future litigation and abide by the terms of their agreements because the parties themselves created them.


Founding partner of McGaughey & Spirito in Redondo Beach, California, Joe Spirito has been practicing family law since 1982 and is currently serving as secretary of the Los Angeles County Bar’s Family Law Section.

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March 14, 2016
Categories:  Legal Issues|FAQs

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