Collaborative Divorce: Is it right for you?

Divorce is hard. There is just no escaping that fact. And for many years there was only one path to divorce and that was court, which made it even worse.  In fact – the research has borne out that litigation -especially with children involved – can cause lasting trauma and actually serves to  destroy families.  Collaborative Divorce is an alternative path away from the adversarial process that causes emotional and financial damage. Instead of courtroom battles, the parties participate in a team based resolution process focused on interest based negotiation and problem solving rather than tearing each other apart.  This article seeks to explain the benefits of a collaborative divorce, how the process works, the costs, how to start and why I wish I would have gone the collaborative route in my own divorce 15 years ago.

What is collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce is when the spouses meet over a series of meetings to negotiate a divorce agreement alongside an interdisciplinary team with the goal to reach an agreement outside of court that works for all the parties involved.  The team generally includes 2 collaboratively trained lawyers (one for each spouse) a financial neutral (usually a CPA, forensic accountant or financial planner) and a mental health professional (usually a family therapist or divorce coach) to moderate or facilitate the meetings.  

How does the process work?

The spouses must first enter into an participation agreement wherein they commit to not litigating the case in court, but to instead settle out of court.  They agree upfront that if they do not reach an agreement that they must start over with new lawyers as the collaborative lawyers are prohibited from representing them afterwards.  This creates an incentive for everyone to stay out of court and reach a settlement.  The entire team will then meet several times to discuss the issues without agreement and work through interest based negotiation and problem solving to come up with win/win solutions. The collaboratively trained lawyers are there to make sure the clients are educated throughout the process of the law and how it relates to their respective interests. The financial neutral is there to help the parties understand the landscape of equitable distribution and options to meet each parties desired outcomes.  The mental health professional is there to keep the meetings on track and the lawyers and their clients focused on the entire family’s success and well being throughout and after the process.

What does it cost and how do I start?

As you might expect with a number of professionals participating in the collaborative process, the costs can be substantial.  I do not recommend collaborative divorce for couples without children or significant assets.  For couples with children and/or significant assets or high conflict, the cost of a collaborative divorce while significant (approximately $15k on average) is much lower than the average divorce trial in court ($30k-$100k).  To get started with the collaborative process, give my office a call 812-322-2082 and set up a consultation OR you can look up your local collaborative divorce practice group on google.  Each community has its own group of approved collaboratively trained professionals who can help you get started.

Why I wish I would have had a collaborative divorce

Collaborative divorce was just coming onto the scene when I started my own divorce back in 2008.  I knew about it but was unsuccessful in convincing my prior spouse to participate in the process.  What followed was 5 years in and out of court with many thousands of dollars wasted and years of emotional turmoil.  It still hurts to think that could have been avoided had we been able to remove ourselves from the adversarial process and just focus on what would have served our kids best interests instead.  Traditional divorce litigation can destroy families where collaborative divorce focuses on the reorganization of the family. As one colleague put it “husbands and wives can get a divorce, but moms and dads can’t”. For a great explanation of the process see this video.

If you are in need of a Tampa Divorce Attorney reach out to our office for a free 30 minute consultation. At The Law Office of Christine Diorio, P.A. we treat you like family! Come learn why our office is where people say justice has a heart. Call today (813) 322-2082