What is Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative divorce is a legal approach in which a couple chooses to use a non-combative and collaborative method to end a marriage. The objective is to avoid the uncertainty of court proceedings. The collaborative process commonly includes other family professionals (mental health professionals, mediators, divorce financial planners, etc.). Many believe this method, as with non-represented mediation, achieves settlements that meet the specific needs of both parties and their children – and does so without the threat and drama of contested litigation.

Collaborative Divorce vs. Mediation

Occasionally, people getting divorced are concerned about not being “represented.” This can happen in marital relationships where mistrust exists. In mediation, a mediator will not and cannot provide legal advice. By contrast, the collaborative divorce model allows for the advantage of the private counsel of an attorney as well as the attorney’s additional perspective. This can be enormously valuable. But it also brings additional cost. Both attorneys must be paid, as must the mediator if one is used to work through sticky issues. A collaborative divorce can cost twice what the non-represented, mediation-driven and pro-se approach of Heartland Family Mediators does. Costs aside, however, collaborative divorce has benefits.

How does it work?

Collaborative divorce is voluntary, and a couple begins by signing a contract binding each to the process. The respective attorneys agree to disqualify themselves from representing either party in any future family-related litigation should the collaboration effort fail. This is an important characteristic of collaborative divorce in that couples tend to enter the process fully disarmed and are open with each other. If the process breaks down, one or both parties unknowingly may have compromised themselves in ensuing litigation because of the degree of sharing that occurred. The attorneys are aware of both legal positions, giving good reason not to allow them to participate in future litigation.

What are the risks?

Proponents of collaborative divorce say the required attorney “resignation” eliminates most risks. They point out that the normal course of discovery in a contested divorce would have revealed the information anyway. They also say the resignation requirement can create an urgency to settle. Critics of collaborative divorce concede these points, for the most part. However, they say, the danger remains that strategies that could be needed in later litigation might be subtly or unintentionally revealed. Or a spouse’s orientation on an issue might be unintentionally disclosed, leaving him or her vulnerable. These are important considerations.

So what should you do?

Collaborative divorce is not for everyone, but it might be for you. Consider scheduling a free consultation with a Heartland Family Mediators professional to discuss the matter. Our skilled staff can provide the information you need to make an informed decision. If the collaborative divorce model is best for you, we will refer you to experienced collaborative attorneys. To schedule a free initial consultation, click on the button below.

So where do you go from here?

If you want additional information about mediation or if you wish to schedule a free initial consultation with a Heartland Family Mediators professional, click the button below to see if mediation as a solution can be in your future.