Understanding Collaborative Divorce

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A divorce does not need to be lengthy or negative. By working with neutral and supportive trained professionals throughout the process, a couple may be able to dissolve their marriage quickly and amicably through a collaborative divorce.  

How Collaborative Divorce is Different 

A collaborative divorce is a legal process that encourages both parties to work together from beginning to end. Before the process is started, both parties and their legal counsel sign a participation agreement to reach a settlement without going to court. The couple consents to full disclosure of information and to remain respectful of each other throughout the process.  

During a series of meetings with both parties’ attorneys, the couple works together to reach an equitable settlement. Depending on the situation, other collaboratively trained professionals may attend the meetings. These experts may include financial professionals, mediators, accountants, appraisers, mortgage lenders or other valuable experts. In addition, both parties can opt to have a personal advisor, such as a psychologist or other mental health professional, otherwise known as a divorce coach or facilitator. This person assists with managing the emotional ups and downs of the divorce process, as well as supporting the team of collaborative professionals in holding organized and productive meetings.  

If either party decides to abandon the collaborative divorce process or act in an adversarial way that prevents an amicable settlement, all members of the collaborative divorce team must resign from the case. For example, an attorney representing a client in a failed collaborative divorce matter would not be able to then represent the client in a typical divorce proceeding. This clause in the original participation agreement acts as a powerful incentive to continue the often-challenging route of crafting a settlement that feels fair to all parties. It is worth noting that an attorney or other collaborative professional representing a client in a standard divorce proceeding can represent the same client if both parties agree to enter the collaborative divorce process instead. 

Reasons to Get a Collaborative Divorce  

Cost Savings – Collaborative divorce has the potential to reduce the time and costs involved in divorce. By negotiating every major issue of the divorce, the couple can avoid a trial. By working together, the parties can jointly engage one financial expert rather than two separately. Divorce costs are largely determined by how long it takes for the participants to reach a settlement.  

Shorter Process – The divorcing parties may also save time by utilizing the collaborative divorce process. Since the goal is to work together rather than oppose one another, less time is spent delaying progress due to disagreements. The longer it takes to work through and finalize the divorce, the greater the financial and emotional burden on both sides. When a divorce is litigated, it can take many months to finalize, as it is dependent on the schedules of additional experts, as well as the busy court calendar.  

More Amicable – Since the goal of a collaborative divorce is cooperation, there are fewer opportunities for discussions to turn hostile. With the introduction of divorce coaches or facilitators, it can be easier to discuss topics while still considering the overall welfare of each party, as well as their children, when determining reasonable outcomes. Once a settlement is reached, the parties walk away with an agreement that they made together instead of having one imposed on them.  

Reduction of Post-Divorce Litigation – Collaborative divorce helps couples work through notoriously tough topics, such as child custody. When everything is settled through a proper negotiation, there is less need for post-divorce litigation. For example, parents can set their own schedule that works best for them with their new parenting relationship, rather than following the Friend of the Court guidelines. 

Why Add a Financial Specialist to the Process? 

In a collaborative divorce, a financial specialist, like those at Doeren Mayhew, helps the couple evaluate their entire financial situation. Unlike a traditional litigation setting, there is one neutral financial professional committed to the collaborative process and dedicated to equally assisting both parties. The financial specialist can present a fair assessment of business values and income available for support, as well as the parties’ marital estate. They can also assist the parties with understanding the potential tax consequences of different divisions of assets and create and evaluate options for a settlement.  

When a couple decides to get divorced, it is not a choice that is made lightly. At Doeren Mayhew, our credentialed, collaborative divorce professionals stand ready to help. We guide the couple to understand their full financial picture, as well as a path toward the future. 

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Theresa Cameron
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Theresa Cameron is a Principal at Doeren Mayhew with over 10 years of experience in valuations and litigation support.

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