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
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.
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
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
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 Collaborative Divorce. The next step is for you
and your spouse to each consult with a Collaborative Lawyer to discuss your
Diana Shepherd is the co-founder and Editorial Director of Divorce Magazine and a
Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA™).