Recently, more and more attention is being paid to Alternative Dispute Resolution – ways of solving problems without going to Court. In the area of divorce, an exciting and powerful method that is becoming is Collaborative Divorce. COLLABORATIVE Divorce you ask? How is it that two people who are getting divorced can collaborate? To answer this question, ask yourself the following:
- Are there things about your soon to be former spouse that you like and even love even though your marriage is over?
- Do you love your children more than you dislike or distrust your soon to be former spouse?
- Would you rather become divorced through an adversarial process in which “winning” and “losing” take place and, therefore, cause even more conflict, stress, anxiety and hardship or though a process that aims to assist you in resolving your disputes mutually, respectfully and privately?
- Would you rather allow a Judge to decide what happens with your children and your property or would you rather make these decisions yourself?
- Would you prefer to emerge from your divorce feeling frustrated, bruised and battered or would you rather emerge with a sense of hope for your future?
- Would you like to become divorced in a fashion that, by definition, creates conflict but does not resolve it or in a fashion that minimizes conflict and supports your entire family through the transition?
- At the end of the divorce, would you like to feel like you are even more at odds with your children’s other parent or would your rather feel respected by and respect for your children’s other parent?
Divorce is not simply an event or simply the ending of a marriage. Divorce is a life changing transition which is complex, unfamiliar and frequently scary. In traditional divorce, attorneys and courts have the goal of getting to a marital settlement – they are not focused with how the settlement is achieved or how the adversarial process impacts families and children.
In Collaborative Divorce, the focus is on the whole family and the transitioning family unit. The focus is on the well being of each family member. In Collaborative, spouses make their own decisions about their divorce rather than putting attorneys, judges and the Court in charge. The parents engage the support of a team of highly and specially trained legal, psychological and financial professionals.
In Collaborative, the team supports you in evaluating your options, evaluating your goals and exploring ways of reaching agreements that create a win/win situation rather than the lose/lose situation that results from most litigated (court) divorces. In Collaborative, the goal is not simply to get divorced and dissolve the marriage.
Instead, you are free to create your own solutions, own the process and feel empowered rather than at the mercy of a legal system which is hard to understand and highly impersonal. The goal is to divorce respectfully and in a fashion that helps the family transition from a nuclear family to a newly reformed family with as much legal, psychological and financial knowledge as possible.
The hallmark and defining characteristics of Collaborative Divorce are spelled out in a participation agreement in which the following are agreed to:
- The lawyers will represent the parties if the case falls out of the collaborative process and goes to court. If a case falls out, the Collaborative attorneys withdraw and the parties must retain new attorneys.
- The parties will openly, accurately and freely disclose all relevant information to the other side.
- The parties will not exploit errors or mistakes by the other side but will, instead, point out such errors so that they can be corrected.
- What is said in the settlement meetings remains confidential.
- Everyone will behave courteously and in good faith.
In coming articles, the composition of the Collaborative team and the role of the team members will be explored and examples of Collaborative cases will be provided. Stay tuned!