What is Collaborative Divorce?

"Discourage Litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser - in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough."

   Abraham Lincoln, 1850

Collaborative divorce is a new and exciting development in family law.

Let's face it - divorce is seldom easy. Divorce requires us to make life-altering decisions at a time when we are most emotionally vulnerable. Often, the last thing we need is a "blood and guts" court battle over who gets the silverware. Collaborative law is designed specifically for couples who are looking for a calm, educational and professional alternative to divorce litigation.

Collaborative divorce gives the parties an opportunity to settle their divorce without the oversight of the court. Unlike litigation, collaborative divorce allows the parties to negotiate in a structured, but non-adversarial environment with skilled legal counsel actively assisting them. Similar to litigation, the parties involved in a collaborative divorce each hire their own attorney. However, the attorneys involved in collaborative divorce are specifically trained in collaborative law and have settlement - not trial - as their primary objective. Settlement remains the main objective because the lawyers' continued employment depends upon his or her ability to facilitate an acceptable settlement proposal. Failure to reach settlement results in the end of the collaborative divorce process, and an end to the attorney's employment in your case.

Collaborative divorce differs significantly from traditional, litigated divorce in other ways. One example is the use of expert witnesses. In a litigated divorce, the spouses each hire their own experts: psychologists, forensic accountants, business valuation experts and/or appraisers. The hiring of these experts, while valuable to each party's case, results in significant expenditures of marital assets toward the resolution of the case. In a collaborative divorce the spouses agree, with advice of counsel, on which experts to hire in order to decide the disputed issues. More importantly, the costs of hiring these experts are shared by the parties rather than duplicated. This economy of scale reduces the overall costs of the divorce and leaves more money in the family's pocketbook.

Collaborative divorce is most appropriate for those clients who wish to have an active role in negotiating their own settlement while receiving the advice of skilled legal professionals.

collaborative divorce law

 How does collaborative divorce differ from mediation?

Collaborative divorce is very different from mediation. In mediation, the parties completely control the direction of the negotiations. A mediator cannot give legal advice - he or she is limited to assisting the parties in reaching their own agreement. If a mediated agreement is reached, the parties must then hire attorneys to draft the legal documents for presentation to the court. In collaborative divorce the process is more structured. Skilled legal professionals assist their clients in reaching a settlement of all legal issues. Collaborative lawyers can and do offer legal advice and opinions to the parties during the negotiation process. Unlike mediation, collaborative lawyers can finish the job - that is, prepare the legal documents and present them to the court.

collaborative family law

 Benefits of Collaborative Divorce
  • Non-adversarial, cooperative environment conducive to settlement
  • Preserves the integrity of family relationships
  • Team approach where the family is actively involved in the process
  • Reduced costs

The single most important benefit of collaborative divorce is the creation of a cooperative environment in which communication is open and the direction of the divorce settlement is in the parties' hands - not the courts. Because the parties are actively involved in crafting and understanding their own settlement, the collaborative law process prepares the parties to deal with future conflict by agreement rather than litigation. Instead of confronting your spouse as an adversary, you face your spouse as a team member with a common goal: settling the underlying issues and reaching an agreement that you can both live with after the divorce is final.

Collaborative divorce usually costs less than litigated divorce. By hiring one type of expert by agreement and splitting the cost (rather than doubling up on these expenses), more of the marital estate is preserved. In collaborative divorce, all of the negotiation is done before any papers are filed with the court and the parties are able to control when, where and how often they meet to negotiate. In a litigated divorce, the papers are filed first and the court dictates the timeline for settlement - or trial.

Bottom line: If you are looking for a more cooperative environment in which to work out the underlying issues of your divorce and retain more control over the process and expenses, collaborative divorce is something to seriously consider.

collaborative law

 Drawbacks of Collaborative Divorce

The most significant drawback to collaborative divorce is either party's inability to communicate with their spouse. Frankly, if you do not feel that you can sit down face-to-face with your spouse, even with a skilled legal profession