So, you’ve made the decision to get a divorce, but you don’t know which process is right for you. You’ve likely heard about litigation, mediation…but what about collaborative?
What is collaborative divorce?
The collaborative process is a team-based approach to divorce focused on a voluntary and open exchange of information, with the goal of coming to a fair and reasonable resolution that is best for your family. While each party will have their own lawyer, there will also be a team, which may include a child specialist, parent coach, financial professionals, mental health professionals, or any other team members who may have the knowledge and ability to assist the parties in coming to an amicable and respectful resolution. The creation of the collaborative team happens at the beginning of the process depending on each individual family’s needs and circumstances. In the collaborative process, there is no “hiding” and all team members – including the lawyers and the parties – are committed to collaborating with each other and producing creative solutions to resolve the issues at hand. All members of the collaborative team must also commit to the process, meaning that if for some reason a resolution is not reached, the team members cannot simply shift into litigation, and a new litigation team would need to be assembled.
What are the benefits to a collaborative divorce?
The collaborative process is family-focused and in addition to resolving the issues involved in divorce, it helps divorcing couples (and families) establish the tools and find the resources they need to continue to work together to do what is in the best interest of the family – which will come up time and time again, especially where children are involved. While there can be some “sticker shock” from the upfront costs, the collaborative process largely avoids the even more significant costs of litigation, which can include discovery, motions hearings, subpoenas, and of course the cost of trial. The collaborative process also focuses on maintaining a respectful process, provides resources and experts to assist with all decision-making, keeps the parties (rather than an unknown judge) in control of important family decisions, and most important, addresses the goals and needs of each individual family in a way that feels fair and creates long-lasting strategies for everyone’s well-being.
So how do I start the collaborative process?
The first step is to find an attorney who is trained in collaborative law. Next, you will work with your attorney and your spouse/your spouse’s attorney to build a team of experts and professionals. You and your spouse, with the assistance of the collaborative team, will then openly share and disclose information relating to your assets, property, and debts, and develop a list of your priorities. While most of the process will take place in a team meeting with all parties and professionals, you will have the opportunity to meet individually with your lawyer to discuss your priorities, goals, and any other questions you may have as well. Next, you (along with the whole team) will negotiate and discuss options with your spouse, producing workable solutions, and ultimately end with a signed collaborative settlement agreement. Finally, your agreement will be submitted to the court along with any necessary paperwork for entry of a final order of divorce.
You should consult with a family law attorney to explore whether the collaborative divorce process makes sense for you and your family. If you have further questions, or need assistance, contact one of our highly experienced domestic relations attorneys at Bean, Kinney & Korman, P.C. at (703) 525-4000. We practice in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not contain or convey legal advice. Consult a lawyer. Any views or opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily the views of any client.