Most marriages headed for divorce don’t necessarily end on a good note. But that doesn’t mean that the divorce process needs to be a scorched earth battle between soon-to-be exes. While there are many issues that need resolution and negotiations can quickly become adversarial and contentious, there are alternatives to fighting out the details of a divorce in court.
One such option is what’s known as collaborative law. In the past twenty years, collaborative law has become an increasingly popular approach to working out family issues like divorces, but it might not be appropriate for every case. Here’s what you need to know.
Collaborative law is a voluntary process that involves both parties agreeing to settle the divorce out-of-court. Like mediation, the two sides are negotiating to try and find a solution amenable to all. Unlike mediation, however, there is no neutral facilitator and both sides must have their own independent legal counsel.
The collaborative law process requires spouses to attend a series of meetings with their lawyers and other experts as needed. The parties must agree to fully participate in the collaborative law process in good faith. Hopefully, these meetings will produce a settlement that satisfies both spouses, including property division, spousal support, and, if there are children involved, a parenting plan that will meet court approval.
As we noted above, collaborative law is not right for all divorcing couples. While a collaborative divorce has its advantages, it has some drawbacks as well.
Pros of collaborative law include:
Cons of collaborative law include:
Collaborative law is often referred to as the team approach to divorce settlements. There is no opposing party. Instead, the soon to be ex-spouses, each represented by counsel, work together to come to a mutually agreeable divorce settlement. It is important to note that this approach of collaborative law may not be possible due to domestic violence, abuse, fear, intimidation, coercion, or other significant issues.
Unfortunately, there is no way to know if a collaborative divorce will save you money in the end. While the collaborative law process avoids court costs, filing fees, and other expenses of litigation, each party must still hire a lawyer and there’s no telling how long the process will take. And, as we noted above, if it doesn’t work, you may have to go to court with all new attorneys anyway. Then again, if both parties can maintain an open and civil discourse throughout the process, it’s possible everything gets resolved far more quickly than it would in court, keeping overall costs down. Collaborative law attorneys must screen potential candidates and review the pros and cons of the collaborative law approach with their clients before the process begins. Contact an experienced divorce lawyer near you so you can make an informed decision about whether to go forward with a collaborative divorce.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified family lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact an attorney in your area from our directory to discuss your specific legal situation.