Getting a divorce is never an easy process, but it doesn’t have to be the nightmare it is often made out to be. You may have visions of a nasty protracted battle being fought in court, with legal fees threatening to wipe you out financially. But, divorce does not have to be an adversarial process where one spouse is pitted against the other, with each trying to gain advantage in the proceedings. You have other options available to you, one such being collaborative divorce. Here are some frequently asked questions to give you an idea of what this process entails.
What is Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative divorce does not involve going to court to hammer out the details of a divorce. Couples work with attorneys who are trained in collaborative divorce and other professionals, such as child specialists and financial experts, to negotiate terms that are fair and work for both parties.
There is an agreement beforehand that all information such as finances will be freely exchanged, and the matter will be settled without going to court. If you cannot settle the issues, you must start the process over again—the agreement not to go to court is binding.
While this manner of divorce is preferable to duking it out in the courts, unfortunately, not all couples will be amenable to such an approach for a variety of reasons, from being very mistrustful of each other to doubt as to whether the other party will fully disclose financial information. But, if you are really determined to maintain dignity, act ethically and respectfully towards each other, and focus on doing what is best to meet your actual needs, this is the way to go.
What are the Benefits?
Collaborative divorce offers many benefits. It is not as confrontational as traditional proceedings, and this creates a less stressful, hostile environment where you and your spouse can focus more on the important issues. Because there are no court filings, transcripts or hearings, it is also a more private process. There is also a greater sense of control over the process, and any matters are settled based on agreement between the parties, not a judge deciding for you. Divorcing in this manner is also beneficial for children—by working with family professionals as part of the collaborative divorce team, you will receive expert advice on how to handle matters relating to your children.
How is It Different from Mediation?
Mediation, another form of alternative dispute resolution, involves meeting with a neutral third party (often a retired judge or attorney), who assists you in reaching a resolution. The mediator cannot give advice or advocate for one person over another for any given issue; his main purpose is to help the parties reach a solution through discussion, helping each other see points of views, and shifting thinking. Outside of mediation sessions, each of you would consult with an attorney for guidance.
This process can make you feel like you are ‘on your own,’ while the collaborative divorce process allows you to work with various professionals all interested in helping create the most ideal outcome.