Collaborative divorce is a new form of dispute resolution in the practice of family law and is a legal method where the lawyers for both sides work with their clients to find solutions to their conflicts by use of cooperation rather than adversarial litigation.
Collaborative Divorce Participation Agreement
For a collaborative divorce, both individuals and their attorneys sign a “Participation Agreement” stating that if a divorce settlement agreement is not reached, both lawyers will withdraw and not pursue litigation. In the majority of collaborative divorce cases, the Participation Agreement contains stipulations such as:
- all legal issues between the couple will be resolved in a non-adversarial manner using negotiation practices
- both individuals will rely on their respective lawyers to assist them in reaching their divorce agreement
- both sides will approach conflict resolution in their children’s best interests to reduce the emotional and psychological impact the separation and divorce may have on them
- all communications between the two parties will be constructive, fair and not take unnecessary advantage of mistakes made on either side
- neutral subject matter experts such as accountants, financial advisors, mental health or medical professionals may be retained as needed
- no changes will be made to assets, insurance, or matters concerning children during the process without mutual consent
- for either party to withdraw from the collaborative divorce process, reasons must be provided and a predetermined process must be followed.
For most collaborative divorces, both parties and their attorneys participate in four-way meetings. These discussions allow the four participants to consider all issues in a face-to-face, in-person manner.
Benefits to Collaborative Divorce
Often, a collaborative divorce will be less expensive that settling your divorce in court (through litigation) because there will be less steps, fees, and court costs. However, as with all legal processes, costs are involved, such as lawyers’ fees and the costs to prepare final paperwork and file it with the court.
For a collaborative divorce process to be successful, both you and your spouse need to be committed to working together to reach a reasonable and legally acceptable divorce agreement. If you believe this is something the two of you can accomplish, these are five immediate benefits you can expect:
- Both of you will have more control over the outcome as you will be able to voice your opinions throughout the process knowing that they will be heard and considered
- You will finalize your divorce in a more positive, emotionally-stable manner as the negotiations are based on compromise and fair play
- You will spend less money than having your divorce take place in front of a judge
- You will spend less time finalizing your divorce as you will both agree to mutually acceptable meeting times and locations
- You will reach your divorce agreement knowing that even though you are dissolving your marriage, you have worked together for the benefit of your children and one another
Most importantly, the collaborative divorce is about creating a legal process that is safe, honest, and that does not cause unnecessary distress to the adults or children involved. However, a collaborative divorce is not always a feasible option for every couple and much will depend on the interpersonal dynamics between both individuals and their specific family situation. If you and/or your spouse will not be able or willing to participate in the following requirements listed below, you may need to seek an alternate method to attain your divorce:
A successful collaborative divorce requires six things:
- Full disclosure of all documents. All assets and obligations must be presented with full transparency in order to negotiate a fair outcome for both sides. This is often a difficult requirement for couples who have a history of financial distrust or mismanagement.
- The willingness to respect each other and communicate as mature adults. This requirement is often easier said than done – especially if infidelity or long-lasting marital discontent has been present.
- The ability to place the children, and their short and long term welfare, as a first priority.
- Agreeing to uphold the advice of mutually agreed upon outside experts – such as real estate agents, parenting consultants, or tax accountants – to settle contentious negotiation points. For outside experts, both sides agree to share in the cost of the evaluation, regardless of the outcome.
- Wanting to achieve a win-win solution and finalize the divorce process with minimal hard feelings.
- The mutual desire to avoid a drawn-out court case that encourages both sides to settle their differences outside of the courtroom and on their own terms.
Even though the divorce process is often painful and emotionally challenging, when you and your spouse utilize a collaborative divorce method, you are both signifying that you have mutual respect and concern for one another and for your children. When you both make the decision to work together to legally arrange your family’s future, you have a better chance of creating a divorce agreement that works best for all members.
If you and your spouse will be filing for divorce in Northern Colorado, and reside in the Larimer County or Fort Collins region, and have questions about the collaborative divorce process, do not hesitate to contact our office. We provide collaborative divorce representation, divorce mediation services, legal advising for uncontested divorces, and a full array of divorce and family law services to meet your family’s needs.