Getting a divorce can be a complex and complicated process, leading to no small amount of arguing and fighting in order for each party to get what they want. In some scenarios, however, there is the possibility of everyone getting what they want in a calmer and simpler way without the cost of litigation. Collaborative law is a way of settling the divorce process without heading to court, in a way that could be what is best for everyone in the situation. It's more about “talk and problem solve” than the “fight and win at all costs” strategy of a divorce that often leads to a court battle.
Collaborative law is when the two divorcing spouses each get a lawyer, and instead of taking it all to court, they agree to a litigation-free process and solve their disputes from there over a series of several meetings. It involves mediating, compromising, and negotiating. Once an agreement is settled upon, the divorce papers can easily be submitted to the court without contest.
What are the steps to a collaborative divorce?
In a courtroom divorce, the steps are numerous and complicated. There are typically four steps to the collaborative divorce process:
- Step 1: Each party in the divorce must hire a lawyer. It's important that the lawyers are ready for compromise and negotiation, and not the zealous passion to fight that they might need for the courtroom, so ensure your divorce attorney is well-versed in collaborative divorce. It's important that each party meet with their respective lawyers privately first. They should talk to their attorneys about their goals and priorities, and where they are able to compromise. The important topics should be gone over thoroughly before the mediation process begins, so that everything can go smoothly.
- Step 2: Both parties, and their lawyers, must sign a participation agreement (sometimes referred to as a “no court” agreement). It states that both parties agree to discuss their needs in good faith, both during scheduled meetings and on their own time (if they so agree). These agreements often have a “disqualification clause,” which states that both attorneys will withdraw from the process if one or both spouses decides that the collaborative law process isn't working for them.
- Step 3: All parties meet to begin discussions. Sometimes, other professionals (such as a child specialist, financial experts, and mental health professionals) can be invited into these meetings to provide knowledgeable and experienced input onto the situation. These meetings will occur until all disputes are resolved.
- Step 4: Once an agreement is reached, both parties can sign the document which will then be submitted to the court.
What are the benefits of a collaborative divorce?
Collaborative law requires an honest and open exchange of information. This process allows divorcing spouses to decide how to handle post-settlement arguments, like custody or visitation disputes. There are several benefits to taking the route of a collaborative divorce:
- It saves money. The cost of litigation, of taking your divorce to court, is expensive.
- It saves time. A divorce that uses litigation can also take more time than one solved between the two parties themselves. Often, a divorce that takes place in a courtroom can take over a year to resolve.
- It's less formal. The formal setting of a courtroom is never a comfortable one for those filing their divorce through the court.
- It's less stressful. With the addition of experts to help, issues that might affect someone in the courtroom – such as anxiety or emotional distress – can be dealt with appropriately and calmly. These professionals help the process go as smoothly as possible.
- It's more private. When you litigate, that information is accessible to the public. What happens during the collaborative process remains between you, your spouse, your lawyers, and any other outside experts who may have been brought into the process. If the process breaks down or you cannot reach an outcome, your discussions and negotiations remain private.
- It's more flexible. Above all else, collaborative divorce allows the parties to negotiate the outcome that's best for each of them. This means you can be more creative in your parenting plan or how you address the dispersal of your assets.
Collaborative law and business owners
Collaborative law is a good option for business owners and operators, too – especially those with partners and shareholders. Any disruption to a business can affect its stock prices, and the market has been volatile for a while now. By engaging in the collaborative divorce process, you show your shareholders that you and your spouse are negotiating in good faith. This can quell fears within the company, which can have a positive ripple effect on outside investors, too.
How do I know if a collaborative divorce is best for me?
Collaborative divorce is not right for every situation. In some cases, the couples may be unwilling to negotiate or compromise. Families where one spouse is prone to violence or has a history of domestic abuse may not benefit from the process. If your spouse is hiding assets, the collaborative process will almost certainly break down, and litigation will be necessary.
However, if both parties can set aside some time and their differences to come together and talk things out with professionals there to help and advise them through the process, then a collaborative approach might suit them best.
Divorces are often chaotic and stressful, and sometimes they require the firm hand of the law to effectively decide their fate. The courtroom isn't for everyone, however, and for those who agree to have a more amicable and friendly conclusion to their relationship, then a collaborative divorce is the way to go. Holland Law can help. To schedule a consultation with an experienced collaborative divorce attorney in Fort Mill or Rock Hill, please call 803-219-2630 or fill out our contact page. Serving York, Lancaster, and Chester Counties.