What is collaborative divorce?

Collaborative Divorce is an innovative type of dispute resolution in which you negotiate an out-of-court settlement. When a divorce goes to court, a judge who knows little or nothing about your family decides your fate and the fate of your children. Collaborative Divorce therefore is an excellent solution for anyone wanting to maintain a respectful relationship and achieve a peaceful and private divorce. It is especially well suited for parents who want to emphasize their children’s emotional well-being. By preserving respect and encouraging cooperation, Collaborative Practice helps parents and children keep family bonds while embracing new lives. Using the Collaborative Divorce method keeps you in control of the entire process. The final settlement results from the agreements and decisions you make regarding such issues as your co-parenting plan, time sharing (child custody and visitation), child support, spousal support (alimony) and division of property.

The Collaborative approach to divorce is based on the model of cooperation and compromise. Since divorce is an emotional, financial and legal process, Collaborative Practice uses mental health divorce coaches, financial specialists, and lawyers to comprehensively address all of the aspects of a divorce. Beyond this, since divorce strongly impacts the lives of children, Collaborative Practice also utilizes child specialists. All of these individuals work as a smoothly functioning team to make sure the agreements you reach are customized to your particular interests, needs and goals and are in the best interests of all concerned — especially the children.

In a Collaborative Divorce you develop a co-parenting plan and are encouraged to implement new tools that can enable you to more effectively communicate as co-parents both during and after the divorce. Collaborative Practice can serve to transform one dysfunctional home into two well-functioning co-parenting homes that are emotionally stable and financially secure. Should your circumstances change after the divorce, the team remains available to guide you to new resolutions in an amicable and peaceful manner.

– Collaborative Divorce FAQ

Is collaborative divorce right for me?

While we believe that the majority of divorcing couples could benefit from the privacy, creativity, flexibility, and out of court settlement of the Collaborative approach to divorce, the fact is that it is not right for everyone. If you and your spouse are entirely incapable of maintaining respectful and constructive communication, and find it impossible to work together, Collaborative Divorce may not be a viable option for you. In our experience, however, most couples have been able to benefit from the Collaborative method, and if you choose the Collaborative method, you do not forfeit the use of the legal system if you later feel that it would be a more appropriate avenue for you.

Our unique approach utilizes a team of experts who not only deal with the legal and financial aspects of divorce but also deal with the strong emotions and difficulties in communicating and compromising that are inherent in divorce. While we find it pleasing to work with people who get along relatively well, it is perhaps even more meaningful to help a couple who are not able to get along well to make decisions and agreements that minimize trauma for them and their children. Often the tools learned in Collaborative Divorce involving ways to manage strong emotion and how to utilize effective communication skills, will continue to serve you well into the future as co-parents. If, in the future, new issues arise that you cannot resolve, the Collaborative Team remains available to offer help.

Before entering into the traditional adversarial approach to divorce we urge you to consult with us about the more enlightened Collaborative model.

– Collaborative Divorce FAQ

What are the main advantages of collaborative divorce?

A primary advantage of the Collaborative Divorce method is that it puts you in control of the entire process. Rather than having matters such as child custody, property division and alimony decided using the traditional method of adversarial lawyers and a family law judge, you and your spouse will be the ones who decide on these matters. This is critically important since the outcome of the divorce will have a major effect on your life and the lives of your children now and in the future.

– Collaborative Divorce FAQ

Is collaborative divorce better for the children?

Absolutely! At the Collaborative Divorce Center of Coastal Virginia, our top priority is to ensure that your children have a voice and that their best interests are served throughout the entire process of the divorce and afterwards. We further strive to help you develop and agreement that affords both parents maximum access to their children through the mutuaCollaborative Divorce FAQlly developed co-parenting plan (which includes custody and child visitation), as well as agreed upon arrangements for child support that will not place an undue strain on either parent’s financial resources. By avoiding adversarial litigation, you can reduce the length of the divorce as well as minimizing the emotional impact of the situation on your children. Another advantage of the Collaborative approach is that it often teaches parents new skills for constructive and cooperative communication that they can use in their continued contact as co-parents.

– Collaborative Divorce FAQ

How much does a collaborative divorce cost?

The average total cost of the Collaborative Divorce process, utilizing a team of specialists; lawyers, mental health coaches / child specialists and a financial neutral, is far less than the average cost of a litigated divorce. The reason Collaborative Divorce is usually less costly, despite providing much more support, is that each of the collaborative professionals does what they are trained to do in their respective field of expertise, thereby streamlining the process. In addition, since the goal is to come to workable agreements rather than engaging in traumatic and costly war-like litigation, the process flows more smoothly and is typically less costly emotionally and financially both during the process and afterwards.

– Collaborative Divorce FAQ

Will I have to go to court?

One of the major advantages of the Collaborative Approach is that the threat of court is eliminated at the outset in signing of the Collaborative Participation Agreement. Your negotiations are conducted outside of the courtroom without the threat of litigation. The final settlement results from the agreements and decisions you make regarding such issues as your co-parenting plan, time sharing (child custody and visitation), child support, spousal support (alimony) and division of property. Therefore the only court involvement using the Collaborative method is the filing of the Final Decree.

– Collaborative Divorce FAQ

How does collaborative divorce work?

The first step in a Collaborative Divorce is for you and your spouse to sign a Collaborative Participation Agreement. This document sets out the nature and scope of the proceeding, clearly defining your goals in the divorce and the guidelines that you will both agree to follow. Throughout the divorce, you and your spouse will cooperate in making full and voluntary disclosures of all pertinent information, including any type of financial documentation which may be necessary in settling the division of shared marital assets and debts. You will also be expected to engage in good-faith participation and amicable negotiations with the goal of reaching a settlement that benefits both you and your spouse.

In a Collaborative Divorce, there is a team of experts who will help you, and guide you, throughout the process. You and your spouse will each be represented by an attorney, but your attorney will not be there to fight for you. Instead, he or she will work to ensure that your best interests are served at every phase of the divorce and to make sure that all relevant legal aspects of the divorce are fully addressed. At the outset of the process you, your spouse and your attorneys will sign an agreement requiring you to retain new legal representation in the event that you decide to resort to adversarial litigation.

Other members of the team usually include two mental health professionals who also serve as your advocate and provide a voice for your children in the process. Mental health professionals in the role of divorce coach and/or child specialist help to manage the strong emotions and obstacles to communication that arise in divorce. They also help you develop an equitable and durable co-parenting plan and make sure the best interests of your children are served.

Finally, a neutral financial professional is another vital member of the team. The financial specialist works with you and the team to facilitate an equitable distribution of assets by assisting you in determining the current amount of assets, liabilities, taxes and cash flow you both have. Using a financial neutral often helps speed up the process and takes much of the guess work out of understanding the financial assets that are available, as well as providing the reassurance you that your financial needs and goals are being thoroughly discussed throughout the process. The good faith commitments that individuals make when entering the Collaborative Process regarding full disclosure of financial information serve as catalysts for creative problem solving and even generosity. In short, when a neutral financial specialist is part of the Collaborative Team financial information functions as a shared dynamic tool, not a unilateral weapon.

– Collaborative Divorce FAQ

Is collaborative divorce the same as divorce mediation?

The similarity between mediation and Collaborative Practice is that they both use methods of negotiation, based upon your interests needs and goals but that’s where the similarities end. In mediation, you and your spouse come to the negotiating table with a single third party, a trained mediator, who represents neither party. The mediator serves to facilitate discussions and maintain a civil atmosphere, but cannot advise on legal or financial issues, nor advocate for you, your spouse, or your children. In a Collaborative Divorce, on the other hand, you and your spouse will each be represented by an attorney whose primary purpose is to act as your personal advocate ensuring that your interests, goals and needs are addressed. Additionally, with the Collaborative Process, you may engage a financial specialist as well as a divorce coach/child specialist. This collaborative team works with you to resolve emotional, financial and co-parenting aspects of the settlement process. This Collaborative Team does not engage in adversarial or combative negotiations, as the goal is to reach a settlement that efficiently and effectively addresses the interests, needs and goals of all concerned.

Click here to learn more about the difference between mediation vs. collaboration.

– Collaborative Divorce FAQ

What if we have a prenuptial agreement?

In cases where our divorcing clients have previously executed a prenuptial agreement, our team of professionals works to ensure that the terms of the agreement are fully respected & acknowledged throughout the divorce process. This normally impacts matters such as division of shared marital property, division of assets (such as ownership shares in a business), division of the responsibility to pay debts incurred by you and your spouse as well as your probate / trust and estate planning.

– Collaborative Divorce FAQ

What if we can’t reach an agreement?

Couples who begin with the Collaborative Divorce method do not forfeit access to other forms of legal action (litigated divorce through the court system) if they are unable to come to mutually acceptable agreements within the Collaborative Approach. On the other hand, those who start off with traditional adversarial litigation seldom, if ever, find their way into the Collaborative method.

If you have chosen the Collaborative Process and find it impossible to come to an amicable agreement regarding the terms of your divorce, you do still have the option of resorting to litigation. In such a scenario, you will not be able to use any of the professionals from the Collaborative Process. At the beginning of this process, you, your spouse and your lawyers will all sign an agreement to this effect. This agreement compels everyone involved to do whatever they can to reach a settlement out of court. It also ensures that the free and voluntary exchange of information that is characteristic of a Collaborative Divorce will not end up being used against either person in the event that the divorce does go to court.

– Collaborative Divorce FAQ