The collaborative divorce process is gaining recognition in the U.S. and many other countries.
An alternative to the litigious divorce process, it provides an opportunity for a divorcing couple to resolve divorce issues outside of court in a private and confidential setting with the assistance of professionals.
Here are 5 Nuts and Bolts of the Collaborative Divorce Process
1. The Collaborative Process is Voluntary.
The collaborative divorce process is a voluntary process. Either party can terminate the process at any time. Typically the first step is for each spouse to have his or her own consultation with a collaboratively trained attorney. At the consultation, the spouse can ask questions about the process and determine if the process would be a good fit for the situation. If both parties are in agreement to proceed with the collaborative divorce process, then each would retain his or her own collaborative attorney.
2. There is a Participation Agreement.
Prior to the start of the collaborative divorce process, the attorneys and their clients sign a participation agreement. The participation agreement contains a disqualification clause. The disqualification clause provides that if the collaborative process does not end successfully, the attorneys and their respective law firms cannot represent the client in divorce-related litigation. The participation agreement also contains language pertaining to the confidentiality and privacy of the process, among other things. The attorneys and clients should review and discuss the participation agreement prior to signing it.
3. The Collaborative Divorce Process is a Team Approach.
Unlike litigation which typically has a win/lose approach, a collaborative process is a team approach. It focuses on the family and the best outcomes with a forward-looking approach. Along with the collaborative attorneys, neutral professionals can be part of the collaborative team. The neutral professionals can assist in a variety of ways depending on the needs of the divorcing couple.
For example, neutral financial professionals can help with budgets, support issues, dividing marital assets and debts, valuing businesses, and other items. Similarly, neutral mental health professionals can serve as divorce coaches to help the parties with their communication and co-parenting skills, and as child specialists. Neutral mental health professionals do not serve as therapists.
4. The Divorcing Couple Decides The Settlement Terms.
The collaborative process allows the divorcing couple to be the architects of their own divorce settlement agreement. The couple together decides the settlement terms. The collaborative professionals provide assistance. The collaborative meetings provide an environment for brainstorming, creativity, and thinking outside the box. The focus is on figuring out the best solutions for the family moving forward. This often translates to a win/win for both parties.
5. Training is Available for Collaborative Practitioners.
Many attorneys and neutral professionals throughout the country who participate in the collaborative divorce process have been collaboratively trained. The typical initial basic training for collaborative professionals is a 16-hour course. In addition to the basic training, advanced training courses are available for collaborative professionals as well.
6. Additional Resources Can Be Found Online.
Information about collaborative law and local collaborative law practitioners can be found on websites of various organizations and law firms throughout the country. In addition, collaborative law is practiced internationally. The website of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals contains information and directories pertaining to collaborative law and collaborative law practitioners in the U.S. and many other countries.