Collaborative Divorce: The best chance for an amicable divorce?

Posted on Jan 29, 2014 by Katie Carter

Collaborative divorce is a trendy, modern way to approach divorce that is gaining a lot of attention lately. Why? Because it focuses on promoting a divorce that keeps in mind husband and wife’s certain shared priorities. In some cases, the couple are focused on maintaining a family business, and in others, the issues relating to the children are paramount. Either way, there’s usually some sort of unified sense of purpose that keeps both parties from wanting to fight it out in court.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the couples involved in collaborative divorce get along great all the time. They definitely don’t! They probably fight just as much as any other divorcing couple. The main difference is that their shared objectives are so important to them that they’re willing to work together because of them.

What does it mean to have a collaborative divorce?

The main difference between collaborative divorce and traditional divorce is that both parties agree not to go to court. They each hire collaboratively trained attorneys (in our office, Sheera Herrell is collaboratively trained) to represent them. Because husband and wife agree to stay out of court, there is no formal discovery. Instead, both parties agree to provide full disclosure to the other.

The attitude behind collaborative divorce is really very different. Instead of an “us versus them” mentality, the collaborative divorce is much more cooperative and creative, emphasizing the need to take both parties needs into account and come up with a solution that suits everyone.

In addition to hiring collaboratively trained attorneys, there are a number of other professionals involve in a collaborative divorce. Each party gets their own divorce coach, a mental health professional designed to help guide you through the process. There is also a shared financial specialist and, if there are children, a child specialist, who help the parties look at the situation objectively and come up with a settlement that takes everyone’s interests into account.

Is collaborative divorce really expensive?

Most of the time, after we talk about how many different professionals are involved in a collaborative divorce, the first question I’m asked is, “How much does THAT cost?” In divorce, cost is relative, so it’s hard to answer that question precisely. There are definitely costs associated with collaborative divorce. Since you’re hiring so many professionals, it typically costs more to get started with a collaborative divorce. Still, the most expensive way to get divorce is to litigate.

Collaborative divorce clients typically report the greatest amount of satisfaction with their divorces and, although it frequently costs more to get the case started, these cases tend to be resolved quickly and efficiently.

To get an idea of what a collaborative divorce might cost in your unique case, you should set up an appointment with a collaboratively trained attorney. Since most collaboratively trained attorneys (and certainly Sheera at our firm) do regular cases as well as collaborative ones, shecan give you advice about both options, including the cost involved, so you can make the best decision possible for you.

After you hire your attorney and your professionals, what happens next?

Collaborative divorce is a negotiation. You’ll meet with your attorney, and you’ll meet with your husband and his attorney, and you’ll meet with your team of professionals—sometimes you’ll meet with everyone all together, and sometimes you’ll meet with a smaller group. You’ll work through your divorce, discuss the hot-button issues, and ultimately come to an agreement. Sometimes it takes just a few sessions to come to a resolution, and in other cases it takes a little bit longer. It all depends.

The end result is a separation agreement, which is a legal contract that divides all the assets and liabilities in a marriage between the parties. After you’ve got an agreement in place, all that remains is to wait until you’ve been separated for a year (or six months, if you don’t have any minor children) and then file for an uncontested no fault divorce in your local circuit court.

What happens if my husband and I plan to get a collaborative divorce, but we just can’t agree?

Collaborative divorce is extremely successful, and we rarely see negotiations fail. One of the reasons why is because, if you decide to go to court instead, you have to hire a different attorney. In a collaborative divorce, since you’ve agreed not to go to court, you also agree that, if you do, you’ll have to hire another attorney to represent you.

It sounds harsh, but the reason why is because your attorney couldn’t ethically represent you in court after representing you in a collaborative capacity. After you’ve had discussions and participated in negotiations, the attorney knows too much about the other side’s position (remember, you’ve agreed to share all your information with each other) to be able to represent you properly. At that point, the waters are just too muddied to continue, so you would have to find a new attorney.

Is collaborative divorce the right choice for me?

If you like the idea of working together with your husband to come up with a resolution for your divorce rather than screaming at each other across a crowded public courtroom, collaborative divorce may be for you. If there is some important shared asset or value that you feel is particularly important and you want a divorce that is respectful of that point, collaborative divorce may be for you.

It’s always a good idea to talk to an attorney about your options. In our office, Sheera Herrell is collaboratively trained, but she also has extensive experience with non-collaborative divorces. She can talk to you about your unique situation, the options available, any associated costs, and ultimately help you come up with the perfect divorce solution for you. Call our office at (757) 425-5200 today to set up a confidential one hour appointment.