We’ve all heard horror stories about terrible divorces that end up as full-fledged wars. In an effort to avoid those kinds of situations, more and more women come into my office asking about mediated and collaborative divorces. Collaborative divorce, especially, is really popular these days.
What’s collaborative divorce?
Collaborative divorce is an alternative to traditional litigation. Rather than fighting in court over the terms of your divorce, you hire a collaboratively trained attorney and a team of professionals to help you reach a resolution out of court. In addition to your separate collaboratively trained attorneys, you each work with a divorce coach (a mental health professional who will help you navigate through the process), and you’ll share a financial specialist and, if applicable, a child specialist. These shared professionals will help you and your soon-to-be ex reach a harmonious solution that takes both of your continued best interests into account. It’s a much less adversarial process, designed to allow people to work together to reach a solution.
That sounds great! Sign me up for a collaborative divorce!
While it’s true that collaborative divorces are typically incredibly successful, there are situations where I definitely don’t recommend it. When is collaborative divorce a bad idea?
1. When both parties aren’t equally committed to getting a collaborative divorce.
Collaborative divorce is often more expensive at the front end (because you have to hire all the professionals to work on your case), and it’s definitely different from traditional divorce. You should both agree that collaborative divorce is the best course of action you could possibly take. You should both understand the way the process works before you get ahead of yourselves.
2. When there’s an uneven balance of power, or when the relationship is abusive.
If he’s a bully and you can’t ever seem to get a word in edgewise, you should see this is a big red flag. In relationships where one party is able to manipulate and silence the other, collaboration is not the best option. The ability to negotiate fairly is really important. If you feel like you can’t do that with your spouse, collaborative divorce may not be the best option for you.
3. When you just can’t trust each other.
When you retain an attorney for a collaborative divorce, you make an agreement not to go to court, to lay all your cards out on the table, and come to an agreement. It’s not an adversarial process in the same way as a normal divorce. If you can’t trust your spouse to abide by these terms, your efforts will be wasted. If you feel like your husband might cheat or lie to you in order to “win,” you should reconsider collaborative divorce.
In many, many cases, collaborative divorce is a great option, especially for couples who want to minimize the trauma of the divorce on themselves and their families. It’s important to be realistic when considering your options.