The first question oftentimes asked by a prospective client to his or her attorney regarding a divorce proceeding is, “How long will this take?” An attorney’s typical answer: “It depends.”
In a traditionally litigated divorce, it is extremely difficult to predict the length of time the divorce process can take, due to many unknown factors that must be taken into consideration.
Let’s look at differences between litigating versus using the Collaborative Divorce Process.
Litigation starts with the commencement of a Court action for divorce by the filing of a Summons with the County Clerk. In addition, if immediate problems must be addressed, litigation requires the service of an Order to Show Cause seeking relief from the Court, which is both time-consuming and expensive. The first time the parties and their attorneys may address the issues is at a Preliminary Conference scheduled by the Court, which does not consider the scheduling needs of the parties and their attorneys.
In contrast, with the Collaborative Divorce model, the parties, their respective counsel, and other collaborative team members, which may include coaches and a “financial neutral,” mutually set their own first meeting schedule.
Clearly, initiation of the process can be greatly shortened using the collaborative model.
The differences between the models are even more pronounced as a result of what occurs at that Preliminary Conference. The parties and their attorneys must appear at the specified time before the assigned Justice in their case and present their extensive Preliminary Conference Order. The Order provides a road map for the divorce proceeding and informs the Court about the issues it will have to determine at trial. It is not atypical for the actual divorce trial to take place at least one to two years after the Preliminary Conference.
The Preliminary Conference Order will include a timeline for the service of requests for discovery and inspection; dates by which that information is to be provided; the date, time and place for depositions of the parties and third parties, if necessary; the date for service of demands for written interrogatories and the dates by which answers must be provided; determinations regarding experts for the purposes of appraisals of real estate, valuations of businesses, retirement and pension plans, and enhanced earning capacity of the parties; the appointment of an attorney for the child(ren), forensic custody evaluations, and a host of other terms made by the Court in order to proceed with the pre-trial discovery.
This is where valuable time be saved utilizing the Collaborative Process. Instead of waiting for a Preliminary Conference date to be assigned by the Court, the parties, their counsel, and other members of the Collaborative Team, can agree among themselves, without Court interference, upon a date to meet. Further, at their first or second meeting, the parties can agree on a timeline for gathering necessary information. This can avoid the long, drawn-out discovery experienced in the litigation process.
In addition, all other issues to be addressed will be placed on a meeting agenda that will be more frequent, more convenient and faster than waiting for Court dates to be scheduled.
Overall, the Collaborative Divorce model allows the parties to be more proactive and less reactive, saving time, money and emotional stress.
This is not to say that every collaborative case will be easy and without its problems, but the parties’ ability to overcome these hurdles will be easier to achieve by taking control of the time and resources committed to this process.
The spirit of the Collaborative Process is a transparent proceeding that, with the cooperation of the parties, can literally cut months, if not years, off the total divorce time.
Filed in: What is Collaborative Divorce?