Hartley, Maxwell, & Castellano Attorneys at Law
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Collaborative divorce - what it is and why it is the best option

Divorce can be a straightforward, quick, easy process where both parties agree on everything from asset distribution and alimony to child custody, visitation, and support.

But usually it isn’t.

When a marriage is being dissolved, it is most often a highly emotional time for everyone involved, and the issues mentioned above can become flashpoints for outbursts and arguments. A long, drawn-out, contentious divorce that has to be settled in court can be both emotionally and financially draining.

As a result, many are choosing a process called collaborative divorce, which reduces the time, expense, and stress associated with this difficult life change. What is collaborative divorce, and what are the advantages?

What it is

In a collaborative divorce, both parties agree to enter into negotiations, with the help of legal counsel, to achieve the best outcome for all involved. The attitude is not so much “fight and win,” but “discuss and solve.” Both spouses retain their own attorneys, and after private spouse-attorney discussions in which each spouse talks with the attorney about what they want and where they’re willing to compromise, a series of “four-way” meetings are held to try to reach an equitable outcome.

Depending on the circumstances, child-custody specialists, mediators, and even accountants may be part of the collaborative process. All of these professionals should be neutral and work for a result that will be fair and satisfactory to both spouses.

At the outset of the negotiations, a participation agreement is signed, which states that if a settlement is not reached and litigation seems inevitable, the attorneys will withdraw from the case and not participate in the litigation. Other aspects of the participation agreement may include a promise to discuss matters in a constructive and non-adversarial manner, keeping the children’s best interests to the fore, agreeing to rely on the attorneys for assistance and guidance, and the reasons for which the collaborative process may be ended.

If the process concludes successfully, each spouse signs an agreement that delineates the decisions and conditions agreed upon.

Why it is a good option

There are good reasons to opt for the collaborative process to facilitate a divorce. Some of these are:

  • You have control over the outcome, instead of a judge deciding what will happen to your assets and children.
  • It saves money. Litigation and court costs can be very expensive.
  • The process usually takes less time, as you choose the times and places to meet instead of being subject to the divorce court schedule.
  • There is less stress because of the informal setting and the knowledge that you are involved and playing an active role in bringing about a fair and satisfactory result.
  • You can decide how to resolve problems that arise after the settlement.

Bottom line: Collaborative law just makes sense when it comes to a divorce. It’s often a far better path than litigation. Be sure to choose an attorney that understands the negotiation and mediation process; a tiger in the courtroom won’t necessarily get you the best results at the negotiating table.

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