What is collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce is a private and respectful way to divorce without court interference. Collaborative practice is also family focused, especially when children are involved. In contrast to mediation, each spouse retains his or her own specially trained lawyer. The four of us work together as a team. Sometimes a collaborative coach or financial specialist will assist us as well. As a collaborative lawyer, I work as my client’s advocate to achieve and satisfy his or her legitimate interests. At the same time, I listen to and consider the interests of the other family members. Collaboration emphasizes open communication and creative decision making.

While many lawyers say they practice “collaborative divorce” or that all their divorces are collaborative, in strict legal terms, a collaborative divorce is a specific process that abides by certain basic requirements including three core principles—

  • A pledge not to permit court interference, in other words to settle out of court
  • An honest exchange of information by both spouses
  • A solution that takes into account the highest priorities of both spouses and their children

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What are the benefits of collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorces are private, respectful, and foster creative problem solving. Most important, you and your spouse retain decision making over your lives and those of your children.

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Are there specific benefits to collaborative divorce for high income or asset couples?

Yes. Private fact gathering and an opportunity to obtain financial expertise are two of the benefits especially attractive to individuals with high income or net worth considering divorce. To learn more, click here.

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Can spouses who dislike or even hate each other successfully collaborate?

Yes, quite often. Finding the right professional support team is one key to success.

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Is collaborative divorce right for every divorcing couple?

It’s right for most but not all divorcing couples. Collaborative divorce requires open communication between the parties. If your marital situation involves domestic violence and restraining orders or your spouse will never be truthful about the finances, your options for this creative approach to divorce may be limited.

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My spouse and I have some big problems that I am not sure can be solved by a judge simply making a decision. How can collaborative divorce meet my needs?

You are correct in your concern that a judge may not be able to solve your family problems. The authority of a judge is limited by law. In addition, even the most experienced and well intentioned judge does not have the opportunity to really know you, your spouse, or your children or often the time, training, or expertise to address your family’s specific needs.

By divorcing collaboratively, you and your spouse have the benefit of not only lawyers, but also communications, parenting, and financial specialists. Collaborative divorce focuses on educating and empowering each spouse so that the spouses together can make the best choices for themselves and their families, whether these choices involve finances, parenting, or ongoing relationships.

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What is the main difference between divorce mediation and collaborative divorce?

The mediator must maintain neutrality throughout the mediation process. The mediator cannot give legal advice or keep secrets between spouses.

As a collaborative lawyer, I am my client’s ally, advocate, and adviser. I am at your side throughout the collaborative process. I provide my client with legal advice and guidance. Our relationship is legally privileged, protected, and confidential.

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Is divorce mediation or collaborative divorce better?

Neither process is necessarily “better” than the other. Instead, the divorcing couple should consider the level of professional support that best fits their situation.

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What are the main differences between collaborative divorce and a traditional or litigated divorce?

Collaborative divorce focuses on:

  • Allowing the divorcing couple to control their own lives.
  • Maintaining a private and respectful divorce environment.
  • Creative decision making.
  • Responsibility.
  • The future.

Traditional divorce and litigation emphasizes:

  • Giving decision making authority and control to others – lawyers, judges, so called experts.
  • Publicly disclosing financial and personal information.
  • Limited options.
  • Fault and blame.
  • The past.

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Will a divorcing person receive a better outcome if he or she litigates rather than collaborates?

No. In my experience, the divorce experience and outcome of a collaborative divorce for essentially all divorcing persons is better than the experience and outcome of a litigated divorce case.

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Can any divorce lawyer effectively and properly handle a collaborative divorce case?

No. I strongly recommend that you do not retain a lawyer to represent you in a collaborative divorce unless—

  • The lawyer has formal collaborative training
  • He or she has a record of collaborative case success
  • The lawyer agrees in writing that he will not represent you in court if the collaboration is unsuccessful.

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