FAQs about Collaborative Divorce

Q. What is a collaborative divorce?

A. “Collaborative Divorce” takes the best elements of litigation and mediation and combines them to let you structure a respectful out of court settlement. The Collaborative process uses a multi-disciplinary team of independent and specially trained lawyers, family specialists and certified financial planners to guide you to a mutually acceptable settlement of all issues.

At the heart of the process is a participation agreement which focuses everyone on settling their dispute out of court. Even the lawyers commit to a collaborative settlement. If a settlement is not reached, the lawyers cannot represent you in court. Everyone is motivated to keep you in charge of your life and to develop mutually acceptable solutions.

Q. How does the collaborative process work best?

A. To maximize a respectful and professional settlement, you hire your own specially-trained collaborative family law attorney. Your spouse hires his or her own collaborative lawyer. You and your spouse then select a Family Specialist, who is a mental health professional trained in the collaborative divorce process (this is not therapy) to work with you as the settlement unfolds. When appropriate, a collaboratively-trained neutral financial specialist can become part of your “team.” Thus, the collaborative process provides the ideal comprehensive legal, emotional and financial expertise needed to keep you informed until you resolve all issues.

Q. What is the goal of Collaborative Practice?

A. To help divorcing and separating couples focus on what is most important to them throughout the divorce process. The end result is a more efficient, targeted and productive way to resolve disputes, which produces longer lasting agreements.

Q. With so many professionals, does the collaborative process cost more than litigation?

A. No. By having each legal, psychological and financial professional perform the services for which each is specially trained, the process frequently costs less, both financially and emotionally. You control the cost of the process. The level of support needed, and the level of conflict, determines the number and length of meetings needed to work through all issues. There is a consensus among collaborative practitioners that the collaborative process is the most cost-effective model for resolving disputes. It optimizes the legal, emotional and financial results for both you and your children.

Q. What distinguishes collaborative practice from other methods for divorce?

A. Collaborative practice is different from divorce in the following ways:

  • Collaborative Practice promotes respect and keeps you — not a judge — in control of the outcome.
  • It addresses each individual’s unique concerns, as opposed to litigation which is driven by general rules of law, which were developed to solve the problems of people who cannot assume the responsibility of amicably resolving their conflict without a judge.
  • Because you and your lawyer agree not to go to court, the process is more open and less adversarial.
  • Unlike mediation, your own lawyer works with you throughout the process, attending every meeting, as well as providing you with private independent legal advice.

Q. In what specific ways does collaborative process save money and time?

A. The collaborative process:

  • Decreases fear and anger, and increases family functionality.
  • Empowers you to control the process and the cost. In a court setting, a judge or the “other” lawyer may significantly affect the financial and emotional costs.
  • Uses “transparent,” voluntary financial disclosure, eliminating the time and expense of formal financial discovery procedures.
  • Utilizes neutral financial experts.
  • Avoids motion practice, which is not only expensive, but often unecessarily inflames the situation.
  • Eliminates court appearances and waiting time. Every hour is spent working only towards problem resolution.
  • Uses a team of professionals to assist you to evaluate available solutions more efficiently and accurately.

Q. How successful is the collaborative process?

A. For most couples, the collaborative process is highly successful. The professional team develops options for settlement for you. You choose the resolution which works best. You are guided to improve your communication skills and play an active, fully-informed role in the process. Through creative problem-solving, the process incorporates the goals of each party and the children. Settlement is easier to achieve because the collaborative process provides a safe place to work through this life transition. Moreover, once the process is completed, the parties are better able to deal with the issues which arise after the divorce.

Q. Does collaborative process work for all couples?

A. No process is always successful. However, the collaborative process should provide the best forum for this family transition. The collaborative team relies upon and enhances the capacity of the participant to understand both the financial and psychological effects of divorce, and to use the process effectively. The process is not recommended for couples with a history of violence.

Q. Are the children protected in collaboration?

A. Yes. In every case, the Family Specialist keeps the parents focused on the children’s developmental needs. In a some special cases, a Child Specialist is added to the team to evaluate the children’s needs. The feelings, thoughts and concerns of the children are voiced. In all collaborative matters, a unique parenting plan is prepared that is suitable for the children’s developmental stages, now and in the future. If the parents desire, the Family Specialist or Child Specialist will also help the children understand the expected familial changes. The Child Specialist may brainstorm with the children ways to make their adjustment easier and empower the children to feel less vulnerable, as they often feel in the typical litigated divorce.

Q. How may the Child Specialist help the parents?

A. The Child Specialist explains to the parents the needs and desires of the children and the impact of parenting styles and behaviors on the child. The Specialist can point out areas where the children’s needs are not being met and provide information to the parents from their children’s point of view.

Q. How can I trust my spouse to be honest in this process when I am not sure my spouse was honest during the marriage?

A. The collaborative process requires a written commitment to be honest and to provide complete financial disclosure. The professionals enforce this rule. A breach of the rule stops the process, relegating the parties to court.

Q. My spouse insults me frequently. Will this happen in the collaborative process?

A. No. Each party agrees, in writing, to a code of civil conduct. Insults and foul or derogatory language are not permitted. Accusations and threats are not tolerated. Civility is a hallmark of all meetings.

Q. What if problems arise after the divorce?

A. Your collaborative team stands ready to help solve any future problems using the same process.

Q. How much will I participate in the collaborative process?

A. You will be at every meeting. In between meetings, you have “homework.” This is a party-centered process, which uses the assistance of a team of professionals to resolve all issues.

Q. How can I find out more?

A. Call one of our independent lawyers or mental health professionals. They are listed on our Find a Collaborative Professional page. Once there, simply click one of the View Profile links for contact information including telephone number, email address and office location.