Written by Monica Donaldson Stewart

What is the collaborative divorce process?

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Accepting that you need a divorce is difficult. Whatever the reasons, you have to face the reality that you could not make your marriage work. But you don’t have to turn the end of your marriage into a fight. The collaborative divorce process helps couples like you cooperate and reach a place of respectful understanding.

Whether you have kids or it’s just the two of you, a great deal of time and energy goes into getting a divorce. You may have hurt feelings and raw emotions on both sides. If you operate from a place of respect and communication, you can come out with a result that works for all involved.

Hire Separate Attorneys

The collaborative divorce process is about working together, but you and your spouse will still have separate, independent attorneys. You each need someone to represent your interests as you go. Since you are working toward a legal agreement, you need someone on your side.

Your first collaborative divorce meeting will be with your own attorney. Your lawyer will explain the collaborative process and each step. You can ask questions and let the attorney know what you want and need from the settlement. This is confidential and private, as are all of your negotiations.

The Collaborative Divorce Agreement

You, your spouse, and each of the attorneys will sign an agreement to participate fully in the collaborative divorce process. Your goal throughout a collaborative law case is to identify the important issues and address them to resolve the divorce. The collaborative divorce agreement commits you and the attorneys to work together toward that common goal.

In addition, the attorneys must withdraw if the collaborative process breaks down. This helps ensure that everyone is invested in collaborative negotiations in good faith.  Collaborative divorce is designed to make sure you reach the right result for you and your spouse.

Collaborative Team Meetings

To accomplish your goal of resolution, you will have the opportunity to communicate in team meetings regarding your concerns, your needs and your feelings. For some people, this represents the toughest part of the collaborative divorce process. You may have communication challenges that helped lead to this point. Now, those obstacles will be navigated.

Collaborative team meetings bring you, your spouse, and your attorneys and other professionals together to talk. Unlike a traditional divorce, the point is not to take strong positions and entrench. Instead, you will talk openly and honestly about your relationship and your needs. You are always looking for common ground.

The goal is agreement. Your attorneys and other team members, including financial and communication experts, will help you to negotiate an agreement. Ultimately, though, you and your spouse will have the opportunity to work out what is best for you. You may have to agree on alimony (spousal maintenance), child custody and care, finances, and property. These details may mean that your team meets several times to go through everything you need to cover.

Mediation Is Different From Collaborative Law

If collaborative law is not right for you, mediation may be appropriate.  However, unlike collaborative law, with mediation, you are still “in court”.  Spouses generally split the cost of a mediator. A mediator listens to both sides and helps you talk through differences. This is an expert who works specifically to help people reach agreements.

Unlike your attorneys, the mediator doesn’t represent you or your spouse. This person instead works as a neutral intermediary to get to a point in the middle that gives both sides what they need.

The Settlement Agreement

The culmination of the collaborative divorce process is your settlement agreement. This includes every aspect of your divorce: alimony (spousal maintenance), timing, finances, property, obligations, responsibilities, and child-related issues. Your attorneys will craft the language and make sure the document includes everything both spouses agree on.

The attorneys will submit the papers to a judge for approval. This generally happens without having to go to the courthouse; however, if the lawyers (and the spouses) must see a judge for procedural purposes, you are not there to be adversarial. You are only talking with the judge to get your agreement entered as a court order. Once this happens, you can finalize your divorce and move forward.

Can Collaborative Divorce Work for You?

For a couple who cannot remain married, the collaborative divorce process is a more dignified, peaceful path to transition to the next phase of your lives. A marriage does not have to end with hate, lack of cooperation or post-decree fights in court.  Collaborative divorce lets you move forward with mutual respect and understanding. In Arizona, a professional at bestlegalchoices.com can help you follow that path.

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