Collaborative Divorce is not a dispute resolution option in the same sense as mediation or arbitration. Rather, collaborative divorce is a set of voluntary ground rules entered into by the attorneys hired by you and your spouse. While the details vary from collaborative lawyer to lawyer, the central idea is that the parties hire lawyers who agree in advance not to take the case to trial. You and your attorneys reject litigation and, in the end, if your case cannot be settled and you decide to litigate, you both have to hire new attorneys, as outlined by collaborative divorce rules.
The collaborative divorce process allows you all the benefits of getting legal advice without the negative possibilities of involving lawyers in your personal life. Collaborative Divorce lawyers help you make good decisions about financial issues. For example, they advise you about the hidden pitfalls of the tax code and the intricate rules imposed by the Internal Revenue Service governing retirement plans. They make sure you don’t make document drafting mistakes that cost both parties in ways they didn’t expect. Collaborative Divorce lawyers make sure you understand the law, your rights, your obligations and the legal effect of your decisions.
Collaborative lawyers are trained and skilled in collaborative law, thus creating an open environment that encourages the peaceful resolution of issues. Similar to arbitration, collaborative law requires all parties to sign a document; this one is called a Collaborative Law Agreement and states that the parties commit 1) to resolve the issues outside of court, 2) to honest communication of all relevant facts and financial matters and 3) to withdraw using their attorney if the matter is not resolved collaboratively. Two of the three statements above can easily be managed, however, you need to realize that you are entrusting your soon-to-be former spouse to be honest in the negotiations and the attorneys have a limited capacity to ensure this honesty.
Like mediation and arbitration, collaborative law attempts to maintain a civil relationship throughout the negotiations process as well as after an agreement is reached. If either you or your spouse becomes stuck on a particular issue, a mediator may be consulted to help with the collaborative process. If the mediator does not help you to come to a conclusion or you decide not to attempt mediation, you both hire new counsel and then deal with the unresolved issues in litigation.
Thanks to alternative dispute resolution options, when negotiations fail, you and your spouse no longer are forced to go to court. Although some people still choose to fight their differences out in court, knowledge of these options give you other opportunities to try to settle your case without the financial and emotional burdens that generally come with litigation. Couples can now reach lasting solutions that benefit both parties and their children.