In a traditional divorce or separation, couples must resolve issues such as child custody, child support, spousal support and the division of shared property and debt by agreement. If the couple cannot agree, the Court will make decisions for the family, and will issue a binding divorce decree or court order that imposes those decisions on the family.
In a collaborative divorce, however, you and your spouse agree to participate in your own negotiated settlement process, assisted by collaborative divorce lawyers who are specifically trained in collaborative law and experienced in helping you reach an agreement. If you cannot reach a settlement with your collaborative divorce lawyers, you both must find new lawyers to take your case to Court.
“Collaborative law is based on cooperation and respect. It's designed to reach a negotiated settlement outside the Courts in a safe and private setting.”
What is Collaborative Divorce
First of all, both spouses must sign a Collaborative Participation Agreement at the outset. This agreement says you commit to negotiating a resolution and prevents either party from litigating against the other while negotiations are ongoing. You may also include provisions specific to your needs or goals, such as:
- Agreeing to resolve your differences in a non-adversarial way.
- Maintaining constructive communication throughout.
- Using your collaborative divorce lawyer to assist you in reaching a settlement.
- Using neutral experts such as financial advisers, children's specialists or divorce coaches to facilitate the process.
Collaborative divorce involves four-way meetings with your spouse and your respective lawyers to explore the issues, create solutions through problem-solving and hopefully reach a settlement. It's important to note that your collaborative divorce lawyers will not negotiate for you; they will work with you to keep the process constructive, on-task and moving towards a resolution. This means that the discussions and decisions ultimately remain in your control.
Advantages of Collaborative Divorce
Like mediation, collaborative family law offers individuals an alternative to resolving very personal and emotionally difficult issues in a courtroom. This is perhaps the most important reason you might consider taking a collaborative law approach. Instead of airing your grievances and listing your hopes for the future before a room full of strangers, you work with trusted collaborative divorce professionals on resolving your differences in a safe and private setting.
Collaborative divorce has several other advantages as well, including:
- It gives both parties more control over the process and the outcomes. In mediation, the process is fairly set in stone. In collaborative law, you set the parameters and items for discussion ahead of time.
- It uses a team approach. In addition to your lawyers, you may find the assistance of collaborative divorce professionals like financial or tax advisers, child specialists, collaborative divorce coaches and others integral to your decision-making process. Collaborative law allows you to bring in such experts to help you make informed decisions.
- It is generally less time-consuming and less costly, because collaborative divorce takes place outside of the Courts. You need not wait for a specific Court date (which could be set several months away) nor pay additional Court fees for a judge's time.
- It's often a more positive experience and leads to better agreements. Working together through the collaborative divorce process can make the process of splitting up more positive than fighting in Court. Moreover, collaborative law agreements tend to set everyone up for success, to last longer and to prevent future conflicts.
Disadvantages of Collaborative Divorce
Collaborative divorce works best when both parties seek to protect their individual interests in the spirit of compromise. Relationships with unequal power dynamics, especially those that have existed for years or decades, can jeopardize collaborative law. This is especially common in cases where family violence is of concern.
Another concern is if the collaborative divorce process does not work out. If you or your partner pulls out of the collaborative divorce process, you will need to find new lawyers and a new team to represent you. The collaborative divorce process doesn't leave room for renegotiation — if you cannot reach an agreement through collaborative law, you will need to start over.
Finally, collaborative divorce may involve additional costs. The flexibility of bringing in experts is a great feature of collaborative law. However, these experts will have associated fees.
An experienced collaborative divorce team like ours will be on the lookout for such issues, hopefully before agreements are signed and negotiations get underway. The collaborative divorce lawyers at Westside Family Law keep aware of potential red flags and steer you in the right direction in terms of finding the best approach to resolving your family law issue.
Is A Collaborative Divorce Approach Right For You?
Collaborative divorce does not work for everyone. It requires that you remain committed to working together with your spouse. However, in a collaborative law process, trained professionals will be there to assist you with the legal and emotional issues that always accompany a marriage dissolution.
Our collaborative divorce lawyers are highly skilled at helping families find not just a resolution, but the right resolution for their family's needs. Fill out the contact form below to set up a free consultation with a lawyer, or call us at 604-734-7911 to get started.