A divorce is never easy, not even in the best of circumstances. You may not be able to save your marriage, but you can decide how you want it to end. If you and your spouse are both willing to commit to working together to create a fair divorce settlement that you can both live with, then you might be good candidates for a collaborative divorce.
What Is Collaborative Divorce?
A collaborative divorce is a unique and increasingly popular approach to divorce. It is a divorce process that involves separating assets and determining child custody that focuses on working together to problem solve in an environment of mutual respect rather than fighting against your spouse and “winning” at all costs.
In a collaborative divorce process, both spouses sign a “no court” agreement and commit to working through the collaborative process to design a mutually agreeable divorce settlement. Both spouses retain their own attorneys who guide them through the process. (It’s a good idea to hire collaborative attorneys who have specific experience in the collaborative process.) You may also choose to bring in other specialists, including a mental health professional for the spouses and children, a child custody specialist, a financial specialist, a neutral moderator, and other professionals to create a collaborative divorce team.
The couple shares the fees of these professionals, which can dramatically save money for both spouses compared to a litigated divorce. By splitting the costs of the professional, both spouses can also feel confident that their collaborative divorce team is working for the best interest of them both.
Are You A Good Candidate for the Collaborative Divorce Process?
Does a collaborative divorce solution sound like a good option for you? In order to be a good candidate for a collaborative divorce you should:
- Have a spouse who is also willing to commit to a no-fault divorce and wants to try the collaborative process
- Be comfortable working with and negotiating directly with your spouse. If you feel intimidated or fearful of your spouse, a collaborative divorce strategy is probably not a good idea.
- Be able to set aside destructive emotions in order to work productively with your spouse and collaborative team. If you can’t even bear to look at your spouse without wanting to tear their eyes out, then collaboration is probably not best for you.
- Want to avoid a contentious divorce end your marriage with respect and integrity. This is especially true if you need to maintain a good relationship with your ex due to your child custody arrangement.
- Desire to protect your children from a messy and emotional divorce. Making this process as painless as possible for your children is often more important than squeezing a little more money out of your spouse after a drawn-out legal battle in court.
- Want to limit the cost of your divorce. Going to court will dramatically raise your legal fees and the overall cost of your divorce.
- Be willing to compromise and let small things go in order to reach a settlement agreement. It can be extremely difficult to set aside your emotions or to let go of small battles that seem important at the time, but that is what collaboration and compromise are all about.
- Be able to treat your spouse with respect and dignity and put yourself in their shoes to understand their perspective.
If you think that you can meet all of these standards, then look for collaborative divorce attorneys who have experience or specialize in collaborative divorce. Your attorney should be able to make recommendations for divorce coaches, financial professionals, child specialists, and anyone else you want to recruit to your professional team. You’ll also need to broach the topic with your spouse to ensure they are also willing to put in the work that this approach to divorce requires.
If you aren’t quite sure a collaborative divorce process is right for you but want to avoid expensive litigation, it might be worth considering divorce mediation as an alternative approach. See our mediation checklist to learn more about mediation as an alternative dispute resolution strategy. Your divorce attorney can give you legal advice on these different options.
You can learn more about collaborative divorces, mediation, and other divorce options at your local Second Saturday Divorce Workshop.