In last week’s blog, the first of a two-part series, we examined the basics of Collaborative Divorce. In Part 2, we’re going to take a look at how the process works for couples interested in separating in a collaborative manner.
The Collaborative Divorce Process
In a Collaborative Divorce, a separating couple works together with family lawyers and several outside professionals, such as financial advisors, to forge a mutually beneficial path through separation. It is a process that does not work for everyone; it requires a couple who are committed to working together despite their intention to separate.
The underlying philosophy of the Collaborative Divorce process is that both parties mutually agree to avoid the courts completely. The result, if it works, is a faster, cheaper and more amicable way to separate.
How the Collaborative Divorce Process Begins
For a Collaborative Divorce to succeed, both parties must come together and agree that they are open to negotiating and working together in a collaborative spirit. If either party is unwilling to participate, then the process simply will not work.
Both parties then engage separately with a lawyer trained specifically in Collaborative Law (like the team at Westside Family Law). The lawyers will draft a “Collaborative Participation Agreement” that sets out the principles of the Collaborative Divorce process, alongside an agreement to fully disclose relevant information. Both parties are free to include additional provisions specific to their needs or goals, such as:
- Agreeing to resolve differences in a non-adversarial manner;
- Maintaining constructive communication throughout;
- Using a Collaborative Divorce lawyer to assist in reaching a settlement; and
- Utilizing neutral experts such as financial advisors, child specialists or divorce coaches to facilitate the process.
Both lawyers will also sign an agreement stating they will not further the matter to court. In fact, if a settlement cannot be reached collaboratively and the matter must proceed to court, then entirely new legal representation must be hired. Try not to worry too much about this aspect. Approximately 95 per cent of all Collaborative Divorces result in a resolution that avoids the courts.
One-on-One Meetings with Your Lawyer
The next step in the process is for each party in the separation to meet with their lawyer privately. These meetings are important for explaining exactly what you want in the divorce, but also realizing that you may have to compromise on some things. For example, if a separating couple had children, then issues like child support and parenting time will need to be discussed. Consider what your ideal goal would be and what would be the least you are willing to accept. Before proceeding to the next phase, it is important to be clear with your expectations so your collaborative lawyer can keep the process running smoothly and reach the best solution for all involved.
Proceeding to Collaborative Meetings
Over the course of several meetings, you and your lawyer will sit down to discuss the issues at hand with your spouse and their lawyer. These four-way meetings will likely occur on a regular basis until the important details are resolved. We sometimes reference an “interdisciplinary approach” towards these meetings, as outside professionals such as accountants, mental health professionals and child custody professionals can be called upon to provide their expertise. It is crucial that these experts are entirely neutral with no prior involvement with either party. It is also worth noting that both parties to the divorce are responsible for the payment of these experts.
Wrapping up Proceedings
Once all the issues have been resolved, both parties will sign their settlement agreements. At this juncture, both parties will have a clear legal framework for the next stage of their relationship. As they utilized a Collaborative Divorce process, the filing of the divorce will be a simple, uncontested procedure that would be carried out by the lawyers that took part in the Collaborative Divorce proceedings.
Consult with a Family Lawyer at Westside Family Law
At Westside Family Law, our Collaborative Divorce Lawyers are second-to-none at helping families find a resolution that works best for all involved. If you’re interested in hearing about how we can help, contact us and let’s chat.