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Collaborative Divorce

What is Collaborative Divorce?

In the Collaborative Divorce approach, a professional team supports couples through the emotional aspects of divorce as they resolve the legal and financial issues. Both husband and wife retain an attorney who has had Collaborative Divorce training. The parties and lawyers all sign a commitment to reach a settlement without going to court.

Depending on the circumstances, other members of the Collaborative team may include divorce coaches, financial professionals, mediators, or a child specialist – all of whom are trained and committed.

Collaborative Divorce focuses on the future and puts children first.

How Collaborative Works

Both spouses and their attorneys begin by signing a written agreement not to go to court. A series of meetings is then scheduled, with both parties and their attorneys. During these meetings, the couple works together to reach an honest and equitable settlement.

Although the attorneys are there to advise and assist, the couple negotiates property, parenting time, spousal support and other concerns. The couple agrees to honest and full disclosure of information, and to remain respectful of each other throughout the process. As needed, other collaboratively-trained professionals may attend the meetings, including financial professionals, mediators, and accountants. Neutral experts such as appraisers, CPA pension specialist and mortgage lenders may also provide valuable information and expertise to both parties.

Both parties may have a personal advisor–a psychologist or other mental health professional, called a divorce coach–to help them manage the emotional ups and downs of the divorce process. If negotiations break down – or if either party decides to abandon the process or acts in an adversarial way that precludes an amicable settlement – all members of the Collaborative divorce team, including both attorneys, must resign from the case. This provides a powerful incentive to continue with the often challenging job of crafting a settlement which feels fair to all members of the family. It also allows the professionals to focus all their efforts on settlement considerations.

Top 5 Reasons to Consider Collaborative Divorce

  1. Typically lower legal fees than with a litigated divorce.

    A litigated divorce can drag on for months which requires more discovery, witnesses, and experts in order to prepare for a possible trial. The longer the process in a litigated divorce the more likely the costs will skyrocket.

  2. Tends to be less contentious and resolve more quickly than litigation.

    Because the parties choose to avoid litigation they often have a less contentious divorce process. Because collaborative divorce can be less contentious than a litigated divorce, the parties are more open to resolve their issues together. With a collaborative divorce, the couple drives the divorce process, not the judge. Each marriage and family is unique – the collaborative process allows the couple to tailor the process in the best way for their family.

  3. Privacy

    Litigated divorces in Michigan are public record. Paperwork filed with the court in a litigated divorce (motions, sworn statements, financial records, pleadings, etc.) are public record. If you want to keep your personal affairs and dirty laundry confidential, the collaborative approach to divorce can ensure your private matters remain private. The privacy aspect is very attractive- especially to those who want to avoid the ability of others, such as their family, friends, or children, to later access the public record and learn about the details of their divorce.

  4. Can lay the groundwork for a more positive approach to co-parenting or co-existing post-divorce.

    When children are involved, the collaborative divorce process allows parents the opportunity to hash out the “hard stuff” with the help of their respective family law attorneys, along with the neutral experts (mental health and financial professionals). Collaborative divorce provides a more encouraging environment for parents to sit down and work things out together for the sake of their children. The collaborative approach is often better for children and for co-existing parties in the long-term, because the parties can learn how to get along and resolve issues sooner versus later. Often times, after a long and contentious litigated divorce, later is too late.

  5. May be a better option if you hope to reconcile.

    In some cases, where a client hopes to reconcile with his or her spouse, the collaborative provides more face time with your spouse which in turn, helps you to treat each other with dignity and respect. During the collaborative process, the parties have the ability to effectively communicate in a structured setting.