Building a Collaborative Divorce Team
In order to adequately address the parties’ financial and emotional needs and goals, a collaborative team is drafted. Depending on the needs of the parties and the particular issues in the divorce, the collaborative divorce team may include the following:
A neutral financial specialist to help the parties in gathering all necessary financial documentation and work with the parties and their lawyers to clearly identify and address the present and future financial implications of possible settlement options.
A neutral child specialist to help the parties develop a thoughtful parenting plan for the children as well as address concerns the children may be having. This mental health professional’s role is not to make decisions for the parties but to help them identify current and long-term emotional issues associated with children and the divorce process.
A divorce coach. Usually, this role is played by a mental health professional who is concentrated on helping the parties address current emotional concerns and develop the skills necessary to be able to communicate and work together in the future—especially where there are children involved.
Is Collaborative Divorce Right for Your Case?
Collaborative divorce is not a good fit for couples that have a high degree of conflict or who cannot communicate. The parties must be able to communicate and cooperate to some degree and must be interested in a needs-based resolution of their divorce case. The parties must also be comfortable resolving their own issues and be comfortable that a judge is not going to be available to solve their problems or provide rulings in their cases. For most cases, however, collaborative should at least be explored as the first option in your divorce.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Collaborative Divorce
- Advantage: Less Emotional Turmoil – The collaborative divorce process is undoubtedly less emotionally taxing than regular, litigated, or contested. This is because it is a far less adversarial process than the normal divorce process. There are no court hearings in which the parties are making their allegations public, and while it is still emotionally challenging, in a collaborative case, the parties are forced to focus on needs-based resolution rather than simply taking extreme positions at the beginning of their cases.
- Advantage: More Control and a Faster Process – Because the parties and their attorneys create the infrastructure for their cases, the collaborative option takes control away from the courts and judges and places it firmly in the hands of the parties and their attorneys. Collaborative divorce is also, typically, a much faster process than a regular litigated divorce, in which the parties have to wait weeks, and sometimes months to get a hearing and a ruling from the courts.
- Disadvantage: You May Have to Fire Your Attorney – In a collaborative divorce case, if the parties reach an impasse and are forced to return to court, by agreement, the parties MUST fire their attorneys and start the case over with new legal counsel in a litigated divorce case. This policy, which is required in all collaborative cases, incentivizes the parties and the lawyers to continue to work together to resolve their issues. If this does happen, however (and it does in some cases), then, while not exactly starting over, this will add significant cost to your case.
- Neutral: The Cost – One of the goals of collaborative divorce is to obtain your desired outcome at a lower cost than if you proceed with litigation. One thing that is important to remember in this regard, however, is that most litigated cases are still resolved through settlement rather than trial. So, while theoretically, a collaborative divorce case should cost less than a litigated divorce, this is not the case. Remember that when you add additional members to your collaborative team, while that can have HUGE advantages in your case, it does add some additional cost to your case.