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Collaborative law: The process

You and your spouse have made the decision to end your marriage. It's a difficult time, and no matter the circumstances, there will be challenging moments ahead. However, there are some things you can do to reduce the stress and conflict as much as possible and make the process easier on everyone.

Collaborative law has become increasingly popular as a way to get through a divorce without further damaging relationships in the process. If you are interested in this option, here is an overview of how it works and what to expect.

How it works

Just like with any other divorce, the first step is a meeting with your attorney. Keep in mind that even though the focus of a collaborative divorce is on cooperation and compromise, it is still important for you to have your own attorney who can advise you on your options and where you can make concessions without having to compromise your rights. Yet, it is also important to note that your attorney signs onto the process and will not be able to represent you should you decide to bring your case to court.

Once you've discussed what you'd like out of the divorce settlement with your attorney and what you are willing to compromise on, there will be an initial meeting with you, your spouse, your attorneys and any experts (such as financial experts) you would like to have present. At this meeting, the attorneys will help guide the negotiation and start working toward a compromise for each issue.

It may take several meetings before everything has been handled. How long the process takes depends largely on the parties' communication and willingness to work together. Once an agreement has been reached, your attorney will file the paperwork to have the family courts make everything into a court order.

What to expect

The collaborative approach can be beneficial for many and is especially helpful for divorcing parents who want to protect their children from the perils of a high-conflict adversarial divorce. However, it doesn't always work out perfectly. You should be prepared for some tense moments and disagreements along the way. Specialists may need to be brought in to give objective opinions on things like custody and visitation arrangements, and it may take more time than you initially anticipate - although most collaborative divorces are shorter than traditional divorces.

Lastly, it is important to prepare for the possibility that the collaborative approach won't work out. If you aren't able to reach an agreement with your ex, your attorney can help you understand your options and what comes next. Learn more about the benefits of collaborative law here.

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