August 25, 2017

It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way. Consider Collaborative Divorce.

It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way.  Consider Collaborative Divorce.

We’ve all heard divorce horror stories.  Traditional adversarial divorce: thousands of dollars spent fighting over one spouse or the other providing financial information, who uses the house, child access and visitation, and financial support before the divorce is granted, and, worse, inflaming already hard feelings between spouses.  And that’s before cross-examination in open court by the spouse’s lawyer and a decision by a judge who is not in a position to craft a resolution customized to the needs and goals of the family.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  Where it fits the situation, collaborative divorce is a better way to go.  In 17 years of collaborative divorce practice and having successfully completed well over 100 collaborative divorce cases, I have seen collaborative divorce result in customized resolutions that both spouses create, without the wasted money and emotional cost of traditional adversarial divorce.

Here’s how it works.  First, the spouses and their lawyers (who must have special collaborative training) make a written commitment to the process, which includes promising to share all relevant financial information.  They agree that if the collaborative process fails, then the same lawyers are disqualified from continuing to represent the spouses in an adversarial divorce.  They also agree not to file, or even threaten, resort to the court to address issues.  Then, in meetings of both spouses, their lawyers and, where appropriate, jointly retained experts in appropriate disciplines (for example, real estate valuation, financial planning, parenting and counseling) the participants: Identify goals, priorities and interests,

  • Collect and analyze assets, liabilities, income and other financial information,
  • Brainstorm options for financial, parenting and other issues,
  • Develop a customized and mutually agreeable plan that is presented to a judge for approval. That is a short hearing and the only time in the entire process that the divorcing couple goes to court.

It isn’t always easy.  In fact, in most cases there are sometimes very difficult discussions.  But, in the end, a resolution that the spouses develop themselves will better serve their and their children’s needs than one from adversarial negotiations or that is imposed by a court.  It will be a resolution that the couple will be able to keep and, more importantly, will want to keep.

Collaborative divorce isn’t right for all situations.  But, as I stress when I teach collaborative divorce, it can work even in very difficult situations.  The best way to find out is to consult with a trained collaborative lawyer.  You don’t even have to be friendly with your spouse for it to work.  I have had a successful collaborative divorce where the husband, on various business trips, cheated with women literally around the world and another where a husband first learned that his wife wanted a divorce when he arrived home from work and found the house emptied of furniture and children.

Certainly no one looks forward to the divorce experience.  Collaboration doesn’t make it easy.  But if right for the situation it offers a better path through to the next stage in life than the adversarial process that can, and often does, make a bad situation worse.


This article appeared in The Cheshire Citizen on August 17 2017.

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