The major difference between a conventional divorce and a collaborative divorce is that the collaborative process includes a pledge that the parties will not litigate their case in court. In a conventional divorce process, the courts are available if the parties are not able to reach agreement. There is not one single approach to the divorce process. Many people believe that the collaborative process is a welcome alternative to the typically very stressful steps in a conventional divorce.

Initial Steps Toward A Collaborative Divorce

In a collaborative divorce, the parties do the following:

  1. They sign a collaborative participation agreement that describes the nature and the scope of their situation and their needs from the collaborative process.
  2. The voluntarily disclose all of the information which is relevant and material to the issues that must be decided between them.
  3. They agree to use good faith efforts during their negotiations to come to a mutually acceptable settlement agreement.
  4. They may jointly hire mental health and child-related professionals.
  5. They may jointly hire financial and other experts as needed (business valuation, property appraiser, accountant, etc.).
  6. They must each be represented by an attorney.

At such time that the collaborative process were to ever break down and the parties proceed to court, the engagement of any professionals that have been hired (including attorneys for the parties) is thereby terminated. Your lawyer is not allowed to continue working with you if you do proceed to court.

Will It Work For Me?

Often, the best reason for getting involved in the collaborative process is that you have long term goals such as raising children together with your spouse, and that you and your spouse can effectively communicate. Although even someone with the best of intentions can find it difficult to negotiate objectively when you are going through a divorce, if you believe that you can do so, you may better benefit from this approach.

You and your spouse will both need to act in your children’s best interests to lessen as much as possible any emotional damage to the children as a result of the divorce. Communications during the negotiation process will be fair to both parties, and will not take advantage of the other for any reason. Everything that is done during the process (such as discontinuing insurance coverage, paying bills, and selling the house, for example) will be done only if both parties fully agree on a course of conduct.

The lawyers play a major role in assisting the parties to come to a settlement, as each party needs to fully understand the law and its impact for today and tomorrow. The idea is that everything be managed as creatively as possible, in a format that is objective and fair to both parties.