Collaborative Divorce

For those who dislike their spouse enough to divorce them, but not enough to destroy children and finances.

Collaborative Divorce is a type of divorce process that allows the participants to have a greater say in the results. Typically, divorce is Position-Driven. The parties to the divorce set out what they think they are entitled to under the law. “I deserve … a certain amount of money … less debt … more time with children … ,” etc. They make their arguments through lawyers and the judge decides.

Collaborative Divorce is Interest-Driven. “I don’t need a fancy car or more money, but I would like to spend a significant amount of time with the children … I need to be in a house in a certain school district … I need help with health insurance until I’m on my feet … I really would like to keep the dog … ,” etc. The parties explain their interests and with the help of the Neutral Coach, come to an agreement.

The process is simple and straightforward. For example, Party One thinks they want a divorce. After seeking counsel from a therapist or other mental health professional (MHP), Party One asks the MHP for referral to either: 1) a collaborative lawyer, 2) a MHP who is trained in Collaborative Divorce – called a Neutral Coach, or 3) Financial Professional trained in Collaborative Divorce. One of these three meets with Party One and determines the best way to propose the process to Party Two.

If agreed to, Party One and Party Two meet with the Neutral Coach for about 2 hours to tell their sides of the story and to identify important issues. The Neutral Coach refers Party One and Two to a Financial Professional to collect information regarding debts and assets and other financial information. Party One and Two also meet with their Collaboratively-Trained Attorneys (each party gets their own lawyer).

First Meeting with everyone present: Neutral Coach, Parties One and Two, and their attorneys meet to begin the process of divorce. Attorneys make sure their client’s legal needs are met while the Neutral Coach guides the process, identifying and working to resolve issues as they arise. Parties make decisions about children, finances, homes, and anything else that is important, in real-time, face-to-face.

More meetings are scheduled as are necessary to address unresolved issues. When everyone is in agreement, documents are drafted, signed and filed with the appropriate court. There is one final hearing before the judge and an order is entered – the parties are then divorced.

In the old paradigm, parties hide behind their lawyers and litigation, using harsh words and looking for the worst in their spouse in order to promote their position, which is determined by the judge after argument.

In the new paradigm, the parties use their own words to express their interests, and the collaborative professionals use the parties’ strengths to negotiate the terms of the divorce.

Divorced parents will have to continue to parent, even after the divorce. It’s easier to co-parent when there hasn’t been a scorched earth policy used to get what each wants.

Clients report that the collaborative process is much more agreeable, less anxiety-provoking, and less emotionally draining. And the results tend to “stick” better, with fewer incidents of conflict and attempts to change the results of the final divorce decree.

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