There are many reasons you may choose to end your marriage. Despite how divorces are often shown in movies and on TV, many of these reasons don’t have anything to do with hating your spouse.
In fact, many couples who decide to get divorced are still perfectly friendly with each other.
If that’s the case in your marriage, you may not have to jump through the legal hoops necessary to have your divorce decided by a judge. Instead, you can consider getting a collaborative split. This type of split allows you and your spouse to work together to divide your assets and separate your lives without requiring any outside interference. Keep reading to learn more about collaborative divorces and what they entail.
What Is a Collaborative Divorce?
A collaborative divorce is just what it sounds like. You and your spouse work together to decide the terms for your split. Instead of having a judge decide every single issue involved in your divorce, you’ll collaborate to find answers to questions like:
- How you’ll split your marital assets
- Whether either of you will receive spousal support
- If you have kids, how you’ll share custody and what your parenting plan will look like
Collaborative divorces have many benefits. Since you and your spouse are working together, you can negotiate the details until you find solutions that make both of you happy. Furthermore, since you’re handling things outside of the court system, you don’t need to wait weeks or months between hearings so the judge can decide different issues. As a result, collaborative divorces are frequently faster. Most importantly, this method can make your split less stressful since you’re negotiating with each other instead of fighting.
Steps of a Collaborative Divorce
If you choose to collaborate on your split, the process will look a little different than a standard split handled through the public courts. Here’s what to expect from a collaborative split and how to make sure you handle it appropriately.
Connect with an Experienced Attorney
As with any divorce, your first step before collaborating on your split should be to retain qualified legal representation. Having a skilled divorce lawyer on your side will help you keep your split on track. They will also ensure that any agreements and documentation you need to submit will be written correctly and accurately, so they will be legally enforceable.
Start on Good Terms
The most fundamental requirement of collaborative divorce is starting it on good terms with your spouse. You don’t need to be best friends, but you do need to be able to sit down in the same room with them and discuss hard topics professionally. You also need to enter the collaboration process in good faith, with the honest intention of working to find compromises with your spouse.
This is such a critical factor that, in most cases, your attorney will have you sign a collaborative participation agreement and good faith agreement with your spouse before getting started. This protects both of you from being taken advantage of during the negotiation process.
Build a Divorce Team
Next, it’s time to build a team of experts to support you during the divorce process. This team will vary depending on your needs. Beyond your respective lawyers, you may choose to work with professionals such as:
- Professional mediators
- Child custody experts
- Financial advisors and appraisers
- Professional counselors
These people will work with you to sort out the fine details of splitting your assets, navigating child custody issues, and remaining professional during your negotiations despite the intense emotions involved in ending your marriage.
Once you’ve built your team, you’ll begin disclosing information. In this process, you and your spouse will collect documentation for all of your assets, property, and debts from before and during your marriage. You’ll also provide any contracts that could affect your divorce, such as pre-and postnuptial agreements.
It’s always better to be more thorough rather than less. If you leave out information, such as failing to mention a bank account or a pension, it may be grounds for ruling that your divorce settlement is invalid. If you want your settlement to hold up in court, take the extra time to ensure you disclose all relevant information during this phase.
Develop a Priorities List
After your lawyer has all of the necessary information about your marriage, you’ll meet with them privately to discuss your goals for the divorce. While compromise is fundamental to a collaborative split, you shouldn’t have to compromise on everything. Talk to your attorney and develop a list of what’s most important to you during your split by answering questions like:
- Do you want to retain ownership of the family home?
- Do you want to keep any vehicles from your marriage?
- If you started a business while married, do you want to share ownership with your spouse or keep sole ownership?
- What assets, in general, are your biggest priorities?
- Do you believe you should receive spousal support? How much do you want to request?
- If you have kids, do you want sole or joint custody? If you want joint custody, how would you prefer they split their time between the pair of you?
This priority list will guide your negotiations and help you decide where you’re willing to compromise and what is non-negotiable. You can also use this to develop a preliminary offer to present to your spouse at your first negotiation meeting.
Negotiate with Your Spouse
With all of this in place, you can start negotiating with your spouse. You, your partner, and your respective lawyers will meet and present your preliminary offers to each other. You may also invite other members of your divorce team to these meetings to provide expert input on important details like asset valuation or your children’s best interests.
During the meeting, you’ll identify what elements of each offer you agree on and which ones you want to change. In most cases, you will attend multiple negotiation meetings as you refine your settlement. You’ll meet with your attorney in between to discuss your strategy and potential compromises. The meetings will end once you develop a settlement that you’re both willing to accept.
Submit the Agreement to the Court
After you’ve come to an agreement on the settlement, your attorneys will convert it into a legal contract that meets your state’s requirements for divorce settlements. Both of you will sign the agreement. Then you’ll submit it to the court with jurisdiction over your split.
If the document holds up to legal scrutiny, the judge will approve it as your official divorce settlement. Your divorce will be complete without having to attend a single hearing.
Approach Your Divorce Collaboratively
If you and your spouse are still amicable, there’s no reason you need to pursue a trial for your divorce. Instead, you can collaborate to write a settlement that satisfies you both.
You can learn more about whether a collaborative divorce is right for you by contacting an experienced divorce attorney in your state. Schedule a consultation to discuss whether collaborating on a divorce is the right approach for your situation.