Collaborative Divorce is a form of alternative dispute resolution in family law whereby both parties in a divorce hire their own attorney who practices in and is trained in collaborative divorce. Throughout this process, the parties getting divorced maintain control of the process and the timetable. They also make the final decisions, all with the assistance of their collaborative divorce attorney and sometimes other professionals.
Once you find a collaborative divorce attorney, both parties and their attorneys sign a collaborative divorce agreement. This agreement requires them to negotiate the divorce through a series of four-way meetings between the parties and each of their collaborative divorce attorneys. If the divorce cannot be settled through these meetings and one party seeks a court trial to finalize the divorce, both collaborative divorce lawyers must withdraw and the parties must hire their own new lawyers to represent them in court. This requirement is designed to provide a financial incentive for settling the divorce through the collaborative process.
The collaborative divorce negotiation process is often done with the assistance of a team of other specialists such as psychologists, appraisers, tax professionals, special education specialists and/or financial professionals. These specialists are there to provide information and guidance to assist the parties through each decision, allowing them to make informed decisions. Those professionals who have received collaborative training can assist and educate the parties on how to effectively communicate with each other to discuss and resolve their specific issues. These same skills sets used during the collaborative process could be used by the parties in the future as well, especially if they have to co-parent their minor children as a divorced couple.
The typical collaborative divorce agreement has at least the following provisions: a commitment by the parties to resolve their case without litigation; a commitment to protect the privacy and maintain respect and dignity of all involved; a commitment to be open and honest about disclosing all relevant information that is necessary to resolve the issues; a commitment to address each individual's interests and concerns as well as the interests and concerns of the family; and a commitment to engage in good faith discussions to work to settle all issues. If children are involved, the parents make a commitment to reach amicable solutions that are in their children's best interests and to quickly resolve differences about their children in order to be able to promote a caring, loving and involved relationship between the parents and their children.
I am often asked if collaborative divorce is cheaper than mediation or a court divorce. The answer is not necessarily. Because collaborative divorce often enlists the help of other professionals (e.g., psychologists, financial professionals), it can sometimes become more expensive than a mediation or even at times more expensive than a "traditional" court divorce, at least upfront. What makes collaborative divorce different and often times better from the parties perspective is that, if the parties are truly committed to the collaborative process and the process empowers them to be able to make their own decisions, they usually end up with a consensual dissolution agreement that they feel comfortable and confident with.
Why is this the case? This is because the parties have worked together to reach a consensus on each issue with the assistance of professionals in each relevant field to their dispute, making them feel confident that they have made the correct, educated decision for themselves. And if both parties are comfortable and confident with the agreement, they are more likely to follow the agreement, thereby reducing the likelihood of a dispute going forward post-divorce- a potential cost savings.
For divorcing couples that have children, collaborative divorce may be a good alternative because licensed collaborative professionals (e.g., child psychologists) assist with determining each child's individual needs and make recommendations on how to best meet each individual's need pre and post divorce. The other advantage is that in a truly collaborative process, children are not put into the middle of an adversarial process between quarelling adults.
Although the actual process and discussion details for both collaborative divorce and mediation are kept private, the parties using either of these forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) must still file for divorce and go through the limited steps of a divorce case in the courts. Remember too, the final mediated or collaborative agreement must be brought before the court for approval for the agreement to become legally binding.
Attorney Bulkovitch is a member of the Connecticut Council for Non-Adversarial Divorce (CCND). She is also trained as a mediator. This blog just provides a generic overview of the process. Each situation and family is different. Attorney Bulkovitch would be happy to discuss with you your particular situation to help determine whether an alternative form of dispute resolution maybe a good option. You may reach her at her office number 860.295.1600 or through the contact form on this website.
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