“Collaborative divorce” was invented about 25 years ago by lawyers who were frustrated by how costly and painful divorce was for their clients in the adversarial system.
In a Collaborative divorce, the divorcing spouses and their lawyers all agree that they will not use the adversarial court system to answer the key issues in divorce. Instead, they will work collaboratively to find the best solution for all concerned. If either party decides to use the court system, the lawyers must withdraw and both spouses will have to hire different lawyers (or not use lawyers) to handle the litigation. This commitment of the lawyers to withdraw provides a powerful incentive for everyone to work together to find the best overall answers to everything that needs to be decided.
In Collaborative divorce, there are often additional professionals involved on an as-needed basis. Often one or two “coaches” help the spouses make decisions and communicate more effectively. When there are children involved, often a child/parenting expert helps ensure that the children’s needs are understood and well considered in the process. Finally, in many Collaborative cases, a neutral financial expert helps educate the parties about their financial picture and choices. These non-lawyer professionals work as a team with the lawyers to help the couple reach the best possible agreements for their family.
Collaborative divorce will usually be more expensive than mediation. It is often preferable to mediation if either spouse feels there is a significant “power imbalance” or if either one feels, for any reason, that they want or need support in negotiating and deciding what to propose or agree to. It can be an excellent choice for couples with special-needs children, as well as for older divorcing couples who want to consider aging, retirement, and estate planning in conjunction with their divorce. All in all, Collaborative divorce is a great process for any couple who wants to have a “good divorce.”