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How Collaborative Divorce Works: FAQs

Going through a divorce can be a difficult and confusing time. Divorces often involve lawyers, court dates, and a lot of time and costs, if the two parties disagree on numerous issues. Divorce law and family courts seek to remedy these disagreements. A few people may find themselves in a pretty straightforward divorce, where there is no disagreement at all. Those few probably only need guidance with divorce papers but not much else. Many people find themselves in the middle, where they are able and willing to come to agreements outside of court, but may not be able to agree on everything. These people may have different views on the best way to settle issues like child custody, support, and property division, but do not necessarily have to go to court to settle their issues. These parties can settle using a collaborative divorce procedure.

What is a collaborative divorce?

Collaborative law refers to the process of removing disputes from the "fight and win" setting of a courtroom into a "troubleshoot and problem solve" setting of negotiations. Thus, a collaborative law divorce is a process by which parties use mediation and negotiations to settle their divorce. Some courts even make it mandatory that divorcing parties seek mediation or collaborative divorce before litigating in court. Note that it takes two willing participates for a collaborative law divorce to work. If your spouse is reluctant, mediation and negotiations may be fruitless.

What are the benefits of using a collaborative divorce?

  • Saves money 
  • Informal setting
  • Information exchange is free, open, informal, and honest
  • Saves time
  • You can decide now how to handle post-settlement disputes
  • You negotiate a result that works for you

What is the process of a collaborative law divorce?

The following is a basic step-by-step process to display how most collaborative law divorces proceed:

Each party hires their own attorney. In choosing your attorney, be sure to hire one that is supportive of mediation and understands the negotiation process. An attorney who represents you with the zealous advocate approach required in a courtroom will not be as effective when trying to negotiate.

Meet with your attorney privately, without your spouse and spouse's attorney. Be sure to let your attorney know exactly what you want, but remember that you may have to compromise on some things. Let your attorney know your limits--what is the least you are willing to accept and what is your ultimate goal. For example, in child support negotiations, you may be asking for $300 a week, which you think is fair and necessary. However, you know that you absolutely will not be able to live with less than $200 a week. You and your attorney should have each of these issues decided on before negotiations begin in order to keep the process running smoothly and to reach the best solution for everyone.

You and your attorney meet with your spouse and your spouse's attorney. This "four-way" meeting will probably occur on a regular basis. Collaborative divorces often include other professionals like child custody specialists and even accountants. It is important that these individuals are party-neutral so that their input is not influenced by bias. Typically, party-neutral professionals of this sort are committed to helping you settle your case outside of court.

Sometimes, if the parties are having difficulties reaching agreements, a licensed mediator is brought into the picture. Mediators are individuals who are knowledgeable of the law and procedures and are very strategic and skilled in guiding the parties to reach an agreement they are satisfied with.

Both parties and their attorneys sign a "no court" agreement that directs both of the attorneys to withdraw from the case if the case does continue to litigation in court.

Contact a family or domestic relations court to file your divorce papers and settlement agreement. Because you have gone through a collaborative law divorce, this filing will be a simple, uncontested procedure.

Collaborative divorce can save you time, money, and the stress of litigation. Most importantly, it can allow the parties to work together to reach a solution that is best for everyone involved.

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