In the emotionally draining, stressful, and time-consuming process that is divorce, a relatively new option for couples may provide a more efficient, lower-cost way of navigating towards a settlement. Collaborative divorce is a process in which both parties to a divorce are still able to select their own attorneys, yet sign an agreement which avoids expensive litigation in court. This client-centered method focuses on gathering information to reach mutually beneficial results, rather than assigning blame. The cost savings may be especially prevalent for couples with more assets, but both attorneys and any individuals going through divorce can benefit from the process.
At the outset of a collaborative divorce, both parties select their own attorneys, but agree to pursue a settlement outside of the courtroom. Likewise, attorneys agree not to prepare for trial, and withdraw if the parties cannot reach an agreement and litigation in court becomes necessary. These arrangements are formalized by a written agreement signed by both parties and their attorneys. Therefore, attorneys who participate in collaborative divorce must not only be willing to work with one another, but should be focused on helping their clients have the most productive exchange of information and negotiation process possible. This can include not only mediation, but meeting with any specialists whom the parties feel will be able to benefit the negotiation, such as child/family law specialists and financial professionals. At any point in this process, clients are able, and encouraged to, articulate their concerns at every phase of negotiation, so that the most prevalent points of disagreement can be adequately discussed and resolved.
Collaborative divorce may seem to work best in cases in which parties already agree on most aspects of the divorce. However, the informal negotiation setting and exchange of information likely benefits couples with even the sharpest disagreements. Couples are often uncomfortable in the courtroom setting, which may also result in settlements that are not in their best interests. Furthermore, by avoiding the difficulties of scheduling court dates, and subjecting the divorce’s conclusion to the court’s discretion, clients may be able to keep their divorce from dragging on to the point of overwhelming frustration for all parties involved. Likewise, attorneys save the time and energy of not only preparing for trial, but attempting to match their already full calendars up to opposing counsel’s in an attempt to set court dates. Ultimately, collaborative divorce may represent a win-win for everyone involved in what normally can be a nasty process.