When facing a divorce, many people wonder what their options are. Costs, court, and impact on time and emotions are all daunting prospects. While many people go a more traditional route, there is a growing desire to work with a collaborative divorce lawyer. However, before you take the plunge, it’s helpful to understand how collaborative law differs, how to find the right collaborative divorce lawyer, and what you might expect.
Collaborative divorce versus traditional divorce
In some ways, traditional divorce is something that can be looked at as a civil action. A “petitioner” files a “complaint” to pursue the dissolution of a marriage. Within a traditional divorce, there will be responses, discoveries, and it can become a long, drawn-out process of experts, witnesses, and testimonies. While there certainly is a place for traditional divorce, collaborative divorce can be an excellent alternative.
Collaborative divorce aims to meet the needs of both parties and is designed to be problem-solving rather than adversarial. The key to collaborative divorce is both spouses having an interest in open and honest dialogue, and a desire to avoid a judge’s rulings. Couples value self-determination and work with their respective attorneys to come to a mutually beneficial outcome and agreement.
What to look for in a collaborative divorce lawyer
Choosing a lawyer is probably the most important decision you’ll make during a divorce. Collaborative or not, this person needs to understand your goals and provide you with the right tools. Divorce is a major life change and one that can have long-term effects. The collaborative divorce lawyer should be there to understand and assist you as best they can. Here are some things to look for in a collaborative divorce lawyer:
- Look for someone with experience in both traditional and collaborative law. This will help them decide which path may be best for your case.
- Choose a lawyer that continues their education in collaborative law. As a newer field, there are ongoing changes and developments.
- Always try and find a good fit personally. This is someone you’ll work with closely, and share personal information with. Trust and compassion are a huge part of collaborative law.
What you might expect during a collaborative divorce
A collaborative divorce is going to look more like a mediation than a battle. The focus is on communication instead of proving your case. The same subjects are covered within a collaborative divorce, for example, custody plans, the division of assets, how to handle debt, etc. Make no mistake about it- emotions may run high at times. The key to a successful collaborative divorce is to work together in good faith and to be transparent with information and finances. The ultimate goal is for both spouses to understand where the other is coming from, and to work toward a mutually-satisfying outcome.
Finding the right collaborative divorce lawyer can go a long way in ensuring a successful experience. Look for someone with the right skills, training, and a compassionate approach. Traditional divorce proceedings have their place, but a collaborative divorce can save both parties time, money, and emotional distress.