Before you can decide whether Collaborative Divorce is right for you, you need to learn a little more about this Alternative Dispute Resolution process. In Collaborative Divorce, both parties hire a collaborative lawyer to offer legal advice and assist in negotiation; both lawyers and divorcing parties sign an agreement to resolve their divorce without resorting to litigation. A Collaborative Divorce “team” usually includes a financial expert (to help the couple create an equitable division of property) and a mental-health professional (to act as a coach to help one or both parties work through the emotional issues that are preventing the couple from reaching a settlement). The team may include other experts as needed – such as a co-parenting specialist, business valuator, forensic accountant, etc. All team members are committed to helping the divorcing couple reach a mutually-agreeable, workable settlement. If the process doesn’t work, then the whole collaborative team must resign and the parties have to hire new lawyers, financial experts, etc. to resolve their differences in court.
Even if you and your spouse aren’t getting along well these days, Collaborative Divorce is still a viable option if both of you are willing and able to put your personal feelings aside for the sake of resolving your issues in a mutually beneficial way. If you dedicate yourselves to negotiating solutions that are in the best interests of your children, then the collaborative model could be a good choice.
Is Collaborative Divorce Right for You? 10 Questions to Answer
Here are ten questions to help you determine if you’re a good candidate for Collaborative Divorce:
1) Do you trust your ex to give full and open disclosure of financial and other important matters? Especially if there was infidelity, you may no longer trust your spouse with your heart, but is he/she an otherwise honest person? Do you believe he/she would not try to hide or misrepresent assets in order to prevent you from getting your fair share of marital property or your children from getting the support to which they’re entitled?
2) Are you committed to resolving your differences in a cooperative manner? If one of you is more interested in punishing the other or “winning” at all costs, Collaborative Divorce may not be a good fit for you.
3) Are you willing and able to put the good of your family above whatever hurt and anger you’re feeling right now? If you’re using the team approach, you’ll have a divorce coach available to help you work through the emotional issues that might otherwise prevent you from reaching an agreement.
4) Was your marriage free from serious alcohol or drug abuse, domestic violence, or mental-health issues? These kinds of issues – especially if they are still ongoing – may mean one spouse is not a good candidate for this process.
5) Do you feel safe being in the same room with your spouse?
Are you willing and able to speak up – with the help of the divorce coach or collaborative lawyer, if necessary – regarding the issues most important to you?
6) Is creating your own solutions to the problems you and
your spouse have identified important to you? Do you want to retain ownership of the process and avoid having to “roll the dice” with a judge in court?
7) Are you committed to reducing the time, financial, and
emotional costs of going to court? According to the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, “Experience shows that Collaborative Practice cases generally take less time than litigated cases.” In a divorce case, less time usually equals lower cost.
8) Do you like the idea of receiving neutral information about how the financial decisions you make today might impact you in the short-term and in the long-term? The financial neutral on the Collaborative team will not advocate for one side or the other; he/she will present objective data showing the impact of various settlement proposals on both parties.
9) Are you interested in receiving neutral information about co-parenting after divorce? The parenting/child expert on the Collaborative Team can help you create a parenting plan that is in your children’s best interest based on a number of factors unique to your situation.
10) Does the idea of modeling how to resolve disputes in a mature, respectful manner for your children appeal to you? Some parents don’t seem to recognize what terrible role models they’re being for their children when they’re “fighting dirty” and being unwilling to compromise on the most insignificant of issues.
If you answered “yes” to the most or all of these questions, you may be a good candidate for this Alternative Dispute Resolution process, and your answer to the final question: “Is Collaborative Divorce right for you?” would be a confident “Yes!” The next step is for you and your spouse to each consult with a Collaborative Lawyer to discuss your unique situation.
Diana Shepherd is the co-founder and Editorial Director of Divorce Magazine and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®).