Collaborative divorce is a relatively new method for divorcing couples to work with a team of professionals to resolve disputes respectfully, without going to court. Collaborative divorce is distinct from other dispute resolution options, such as mediation or arbitration, because it involves a set of voluntary ground rules entered into by the professionals hired by the divorcing spouses. Like mediation and arbitration, collaborative law attempts to maintain a civil relationship throughout the negotiations process as well as after an agreement is reached.
Understanding Collaborative Law
Collaborative law is an out-of-court method of resolving disputes. It aims to trouble shoot and problem solve by removing the matter from the "fight-and-win" mentality of a courtroom setting. As part of the collaborative divorce method, both parties retain separate attorneys to represent their interests and help settle the dispute. The parties and their attorneys meet to discuss the issues and come to an agreeable resolution of their divorce without interference from the court. Collaborative lawyers are specially trained to create an open environment that encourages the peaceful resolution of issues.
In a collaborative divorce, each party must sign a contract in which they agree to: negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement without using the court to decide any issues for the parties; engage in open communication and information sharing (including sharing all financial documents, etc.); create shared solutions that take into account the highest priorities of both parties. In the event that one or both parties "breaks" the contract and decides to see court intervention, withdrawal of the attorneys is required and the process will begin anew in the court system.
Collaborative divorce is not for everyone, but parties who want to have an amicable divorce should at least consider this option.
Advantages of Collaborative Divorce
The collaborative law process recognizes that emotional issues exist that cannot be addressed by the legal system. A collaborative divorce specifically addresses these issues by bringing them to the forefront and using professionals as part of team approach to finding solutions. Often, professionals such as child specialists, financial specialists, and divorce coaches are brought in to advise on matters in their areas of expertise.
Additionally, resolution in the court system often comes more than a year after the divorce was commenced and after much personal information has become public record. In cases where collaborative law is used, information is kept private, and there are often rapid settlements, which often cost a fraction of the "normal" cost associated with divorce.
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