How do I know if the collaborative approach is right for me?

Divorce is an uncertain time and choosing the right way to end a marriage can be overwhelming. Couples facing divorce should consider the collaborative process as a non-adversarial option.

The end of a marriage is a stressful, emotionally painful and scary time. Life is full of questions and uncertainties. When it gets to the point of divorce, an important question for the couple is what is the best approach to divorce for their family. The answer will vary from couple to couple and there are some circumstances in which the collaborative approach will not be appropriate. However, for many couples it is a way to come together and make a plan to end their marriage in the least stressful and non-adversarial way that they can.

This isn't a decision that the divorcing couple will make alone. It is the responsibility of each spouse's attorney to discuss all the different processes available to undertake when seeking divorce. It is also the attorney's job to assess their client's as well as the couple's goals, family and financial circumstances and look for indicators or red flags that would help determine which process might be the best fit for the situation and which processes would not be suitable.

When considering if the collaborative process is the right fit, it is helpful to think about some of these questions:

  • Do both spouses have similar goals?
  • Is an ongoing relationship important? Are children involved?
  • Can both spouses commit to working together?
  • Is there an imbalance of power between the spouses?
  • Does either spouse have physical/emotional abuse or substance abuse issues?
  • Does either spouse suffer from mental illness or a disability that would put him or her at a disadvantage during negotiations?

If there is an imbalance in power, abuse or capacity concerns, collaborative divorce will not be the best option. However, should the collaborative process be chosen and pursued, each spouse and his or her attorney will move forward in a partnership committed to resolving differences and working together through each issue to reach an agreement.

What do expect during a collaborative divorce

Each spouse's attorney will provide detailed information on what to expect during the process and an attorney should be consulted for specific questions. In general, both spouses will agree to forgo litigation and commit to the collaborative process. This means that each spouse will provide full and complete disclosure of all assets, debts and finances. Each spouse must also agree to share costs if any experts are needed during discussions. Experts aren't always required, but are commonly used to help answer questions regarding financial matters and child custody arrangements.

What if an agreement cannot be reached?

If the spouses cannot reach an agreement, the parties will need to hire new attorneys and pursue a traditional divorce. This means litigation, which is more time consuming, costly and can take an emotional toll. Essentially, the spouses will be going back to the beginning. That is why it is imperative that each spouse is committed to working together to reach an agreement. It is also important to note that the collaborative process will end if at any time either party uses intimidation, force or is not acting in good faith during the proceedings. It also ends if either spouse refuses to disclose information germane to the issues or engages in litigation.

Divorce is difficult no matter what the situation may be. The collaborative process is a way for spouses to reach an agreement together in a non-adversarial environment. This can be both time and cost effective, but have a positive impact on preserving relationships in the future. This is particularly important if children are involved. At the Law Offices of Maribeth Blessing, LLC, we believe in keeping families intact and that the collaborative process is a way to help do this. If you are facing divorce and wonder if collaborative divorce is the right choice for you, please contact an attorney to learn more about your options.

Keywords: Collaborative Divorce, Family Law