A collaborative divorce is one where the parties mutually agree to use the collaborative process to resolve issues related to their divorce and/or separation. The hallmarks of the collaborative process are the voluntary and free exchange of information, an agreement between the parties not to go to court, and a commitment by each party to respect each other in the process. In a collaborative divorce the parties work with a team of professionals that assist them in reaching a lasting solution to their differences that takes into account the priorities of both parties and their children.
The collaborative team is the group of professionals that may be brought in to assist the parties in resolving their differences. These professionals are referred to as a team because they work as a team assisting the parties in various ways as they proceed through their negotiations. Team members will certainly include an attorney for each party, but may also include mental health professionals who act as divorce coaches or child specialists, and/or a financial specialist who will assist parties in formulating options to address the financial issues of their divorce.
First, the collaborative divorce process is based on a principle of mutual respect between the parties, not on treating your former spouse as your adversary. The breakdown of a family is a very stressful and emotionally painful time. Natural human tendencies are towards anger, blame and sometimes even revenge. Parties who are driven by anger and blame are often misguided in their goals and objectives. They often misunderstand the behavior and words of the other party. Collaborative practice places parties in a process that defuses these tendencies, helping parties understand their feelings, and effectively communicate with their spouses. Mutual understanding allows parties to begin cooperating to achieve their respective goals.
When parties are able to cooperate with one another to resolve their differences, they achieve better, longer lasting solutions to their problems. A traditional litigated divorce is based on each party retaining an attorney to gather evidence against the other spouse and to make legal arguments in support of their version of the facts. The decision-maker in a litigated divorce is a judge who will only have a snapshot of the parties based on the evidence presented at trial and whose options for resolving the parties' issues are limited. The collaborative process allows the persons who know the parties and their children best -- that is, the parties themselves -- to decide the outcome. Moreover, parties are not constrained in what types of outcomes they can fashion. They can do almost anything that they can agree upon.
An additional advantage of the collaborative process over a litigated divorce are the various professional resources that are available to the parties in managing this difficult life transition. Mental health professionals play an invaluable role in assisting parties to communicate and negotiate effectively. If children are involved, mental health professionals can assist children in having a voice in the process so that decisions made by their parents reflect their emotional and developmental needs as well. A financial specialist may be able to offer parties a range of options for resolving their financial issues that they never would have thought of and that might not be possible if the parties were before the court. A collaborative divorce expands the information and options available to the parties in ways not possible in traditional litigation.
Howard County Collaborative Professionals: www.hococollaborativeprofessionals.com i
International Academy of Collaborative Professionals: www.collaborativepractice.com
The Collaborative Way to Divorce by Stuart G. Webb and Ronald D. Ousky
Collaborative Divorce: The Revolutionary New Way to Restructure Your Family, Resolve Legal Issues and Move on with Your Life by Pauline Tesler