Collaborative Divorce is a dispute resolution process in which each party retains an attorney who has been trained in the Collaborative Process. The parties and attorneys agree not to go to court to get decisions from a judge. The attorneys commit to withdraw from representing either party if an agreement cannot be reached. In that way, attorneys’ efforts focus on reaching an agreement rather than preparing for litigation. This typically leads to greater control by the parties over the terms of the divorce, timing for completing the process, lower levels of hostility, and enhanced communication. Collaborative divorces tend to yield durable agreements and greater client satisfaction with the overall outcome. In some cases, the attorneys may recommend experts in financial matters, child development, or communication to assist the parties and the team.
Collaborative process attorneys have received special training in conducting the collaborative process, conflict resolution, communication, and facilitative negotiation techniques.
In any divorce, very strong emotions and conflict are normal. The attorneys assure that each party has time to think through important decisions. The process is structured to help the parties move through feelings of anger and grief, and to find productive resolution to their conflict.
Both parties and attorneys agree to share financial and other important information openly. This approach builds trust and is more efficient than the traditional discovery process. In addition, each attorney provides candid legal analysis in the presence of both parties.
The parties negotiate directly with each other in a carefully structured process with attorneys and other important advisors providing support, suggestions, and guidance.
Each party receives individualized legal advice from their attorney. This allows the client a confidential opportunity to test ideas and settlement offers, to gain a deeper understanding of factual and legal information, and have a safe outlet for strong feelings. Each attorney assists their client by reality-checking options and assuring that the client has a clear understanding of the facts, the law, and possible consequences of decisions. The attorneys also guide clients who have an unrealistic idea of what outcome can be achieved.
The attorneys and other experts help clients to gather information about finances, including income, assets, and debts. They sometimes guide the parties through the process of obtaining real estate appraisals, exploring refinancing options, and valuing business assets. The attorneys or financial expert help each party to develop budgets for their lives after divorce. During the negotiation sessions, the attorneys facilitate a series of conversations to develop agreements to achieve a financial outcome both parties can live with.
The attorneys assist the parties in identifying their goals and concerns with respect to their children’s care, schedules, education, and child-related expenses and budgets. The attorneys assist the parties in talking through concerns and options, and ultimately, finding the best possible arrangement for the children in a two-home family. They also discuss income, budgets, and special child expenses to reach an agreement on issues such as child support transfer payments and sharing of child care and extracurricular activity expenses. In some cases, the attorneys may recommend neutral child development expert to assist the team.
Attorney fees in the Collaborative Process are similar to attorney fees in a traditional court-based process where the parties reach settlement. Collaborative process legal fees are typically less than a traditional court-based cases that go to trial.
In her practice, Margaret charges an hourly rate of $200.00 per hour. The total cost depends on the complexity of the financial issues, the emotional state of each party, the degree of disagreement about important issues, and whether there are children. More complex and difficult to resolve cases require more meetings of attorneys and clients, hence greater cost.
The International Association of Collaborative Professionals has an excellent website with more information about the Collaborative Process including a 20-minute video of an actual collaborative divorce process. https://www.collaborativepractice.com/