The simple answer to the question of why you should choose the collaborative process for your divorce is that it preserves the family relationship. Clients that have engaged in the collaborative process have said the following regarding their experience with collaborative divorce:
- “The collaborative process gave me the opportunity to control my own destiny.”
- “My children were not forgotten in the divorce; this process ensured they had a voice.”
- “The partnership between the legal, financial, and mental health professionals worked wonderfully for our entire family.”
There are several other quality reasons why you should choose the collaborative process for your divorce:
- It can have a lower cost, when compared to litigation;
- In encourages client involvement;
- There’s a supportive approach with less stress;
- Client’s often feel that they’re in a win/win climate;
- There is an opportunity for creativity; and
- The clients are in charge of the process.
The collaborative process works as part of an interdisciplinary network of professionals. Before the process begins, the couple and their lawyers formally contract to work together to resolve the issues of the case. The lawyers contract not to take the case to court by signing a Participation Agreement as well as a Statement of Understanding, signed by all team members. In traditional litigation, the divorce process begins with the filing of a lawsuit.
After both parties have retained their collaborative attorneys and the documents are signed, the attorneys can contact one another to immediately begin to address the needs of their clients. The lawyers will schedule an initial four-way meeting, including the couple and their lawyers, with an agenda that outlines the items to be discussed having been sent to both parties prior to the meeting. During this meeting, the parties can identify other professionals with whom they’ll be working, which could include coaches, child specialists, and a single financial neutral.
At that first meeting, Participation Agreements are signed, and, depending on the needs identified in the meeting, couples can begin to work with those other professionals before seeing their attorneys again, but always keeping the attorneys in the loop. This way, costs are minimized as the professionals with the appropriate expertise deal with their particular areas.
For example, coaches may help the parties address their communication issues in order for them to create a parenting plan. The child specialist will speak with the children, offering feedback to the coaches and the couple to ensure that the children’s developmental needs are considered. The financial neutral will gather information from the parties and work with the clients and attorneys to craft a financial plan that’s based on realistic financial pictures.
These meetings promote and improve communication and cooperation. Parties always retain control over their own outcome. This commitment to cooperation, even if communication becomes difficult, increases the likelihood of reaching a solution that builds the foundation to the future of the family, even as the parents begin to live separate lives. Once all the issues are resolved, the attorneys can draft a Settlement Agreement, and when it is signed and filed in court, the parties have reached their agreement through the collaborative process.