Is collaborative divorce right for me?

When it comes to divorce, there’s often a lot of fear involved. One of the biggest fears – for husbands and wives – is the threat of litigation.

Litigation, though useful in certain circumstances, is complicated. It’s incredibly costly, with parties often spending far, far more than their counterparts pay for negotiated, mediated, or collaborative divorces. Though the costs can vary dramatically, depending on the type of complexity of the issues involved, it’s probably safe to say you’ll spend $25k or more (in many cases, considerably more – I’m just trying to establish a bottom shelf here) to take your case all the way through to trial. It’s also incredibly time consuming, even in adultery cases (where you can technically, through probably not actually, get an immediate divorce). And that’s not even counting the stress, the blood pressure points, the lost sleep, the harm/stress to the children, and the other intangible costs of a contested divorce!

Divorce is also a big deal. A really big deal. In fact, most therapists stress that divorce, in terms of the shock and upheaval to a person’s life, is akin to a death.

If that’s the case, why would you be making huge decisions about how to divide all of your assets while under that kind of stress? Not only the stress of the divorce itself, but of the possibility of its going to court, and leaving the division of important, valuable assets, as well as custody and visitation, to a judge who barely knows you, your husband, or your children? It’s a pretty scary proposition.

What is collaborative divorce?

If more people knew about collaborative divorce, I am convinced that more people would choose it.

In a collaborative divorce, you and your partner make a decision to remove litigation from the table. Along with a team of professionals – attorneys on each side, divorce coaches on each side, a child specialist, a financial specialist.

You agree to share information, and you work with your team of professionals to real a result collaboratively. Instead of an adversarial process, collaborative divorce is designed to give you more control over the outcome and more stability in the process, since the threat of litigation is removed.

What are the advantages of collaborative divorce?

There are a lot of benefits, but I’ll discuss some of the biggest benefits today:

1. You have a team to help advise you, and coach you.

You have a team, and each person can operate within his or her sphere. I can’t tell you how often divorce is held up because a client’s other needs aren’t being met – usually, emotionally. They hang on to something in an attempt to relieve or mitigate some other discomfort they’re experiencing which, in many cases, would be better addressed with a licensed mental health professional rather than through the litigated divorce process.

Your divorce coach can help you work through some of those issues affecting your emotional and mental well being, so that you’re able to make better decisions. Being in a better place, and being well advised by a team who can understand the totality of your unique circumstances, puts you in a much better place in every facet of your life.

2. You’ll still have an attorney!

Yes, someone will still be there, on your side, holding your hand, giving you advice, and walking you through the process.

3. It’s not adversarial, so it feels friendlier, even when we don’t agree immediately (which is almost always!)

No one can blow up the negotiations by refusing to cooperate and threatening to go to court. You’d be surprised what a relief this is, and how much better the parties behave when they know the process is part of an ongoing dialogue. Being invested in a particular outcome – in this case, an agreement – is critical. In fact, 99% of collaborative cases are successful!

4. No one settles on the eve of trial because they’re too scared to take their case in front of a judge.

This is a biggie. A lot of cases end up settling right before the trial – not because the parties suddenly agree, but because the pressure and fear of the unknown forces it. Attorneys don’t force it, but, when it all comes down to it, people are not thrilled about just rolling the dice.

Would you settle for less than you’d get? Would stress get the better of you, and you agree to something you regret? Will agreeing now open the door to more fighting later on down the line? There’s a lot of “what ifs”, and that increases exponentially when one or both parties walks away unhappy, or feeling like they caved because of the mounting pressure associated with trial.

5. It’s better for the kids!

What better reason?

Litigation is hard on a family. As hard as parents try, its hard to keep the stress from manifesting itself in ways that affect the children. As most children of divorce will tell you, it’s stressful. It’s life altering.

Do you want that for your children? No? I thought not. Work collaboratively towards a result, and set the tone for a cooperative and effective coparenting relationship.

6. Costs less – financially and emotionally

Trial is expensive. Like, so expensive. Like, it’s not uncommon to see cases that, all told, cost $20k, $40k, $80k – and sometimes more! There’s a wide range of what a case can cost, and keep in mind, too, that the costs I’m reporting here are PER PARTY, not total. Yeah, it adds up. Way up!

7. Agreements withstand the test of time

The happier you are with the outcome, and the more you feel that you were in a good place when the result was negotiated, the better the agreement will withstand the test of time.

Hastily written or signed agreements on the eve of trial (see above) aren’t always perfect. Not only can there be errors in the agreements themselves, but buyer’s remorse can drive a person to contest the agreement or some of its provisions. This drives up costs, both in terms of dollars and blood pressure points.

Taking your time, being careful, consulting with professionals – all of these things can result in a case settled effectively, where both sides feel heard and protected.

In our office Sheera Herrell is collaboratively trained. If you’d like to know more about the collaborative process, give our office a call at 757-425-5200 or schedule a consultation with Sheera directly. You won’t regret it.

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