Divorce does not have to be bitter. Some couples simply grow apart and realize it is time to live their lives separately. In such a situation, the couple may want to consider a relatively new divorce process known as collaborative divorce. It is an alternative dispute resolution process that emphasizes rebuilding trust and communication between the partners so they can split amicably and even work or co-parent together peacefully.
Dalena & Bosch is one of only a few firms in Morris County with extensive experience facilitating collaborative divorces. We are committed to the process because we see how well it works.
What is Collaborative Divorce?
The collaborative divorce process is unique. In any other method of divorce, the parties are adversaries. The goal is to win, and move on with your life without the other party’s involvement. In a collaborative divorce, the divorcing partners recognize one another as teammates. Perhaps they own a business together, or will be co-parenting for the foreseeable future, whatever the case may be, they know that working together to split up amicably will be better in the long run than fighting with one another.
Since the partners are committed to working together to separate, the role of the attorneys is significantly different than it is in any other type of divorce. First, both attorneys must sign a participation agreement that binds them to the collaborative divorce process, and forbids them from representing either party if the negotiation efforts fail and the case goes to trial. This ensures that all of the parties are committed to the free flow of communication, and not holding anything back or gathering evidence in anticipation of going to court.
Other professionals may be brought into the process as well. If the case involves a more complex issue, like the valuation of a business or property, or a disagreement about child custody, the spouses can bring in neutral third parties to advise them. These third parties are hired jointly, with the costs shared between the partners. Like the attorneys involved in the case, these experts must agree not to participate in any litigation that occurs should the negotiation process break down.
Mental health professionals may also be involved in the process. These professionals can help the parties work through emotional issues that threaten to derail the case and help the parties rebuild trust in one another.
The spouses and their attorneys engage in a series of four-way meetings, with the other professionals participating only as necessary. During the four-way meetings, the parties exchange all information openly and efficiently, avoiding the need to go through any formal, court-regulated discovery procedures.
Once the parties have come to an understanding, an agreement is drafted. That document is filed with the court to legally finalize the divorce.
The Benefits of Collaborative Divorce
Collaborative divorce is becoming more and more popular because it offers many benefits to the former couple.
First, the process is quick and efficient. It can be less expensive to go through the collaborative divorce process than to fight through the traditional process. The cost savings come from the open and free-flowing discovery process, and from the fact that the attorneys are not spending time preparing for litigation.
Second, the process is more private and personal than litigation in open court could ever be. Negotiating behind closed doors rather than airing the family’s dirty laundry in court protects everyone from unwanted scrutiny and embarrassment.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the process is much easier on the family than a contentious divorce. Children are often upset by the divorce process, but a collaborative divorce can make splitting up a bit less traumatic. The children see their parents working together instead of fighting one another, and there is an emphasis on figuring out a solution that works for all the members of the family. There is no “winner” and no “loser,” just a family that is working together to move past a difficult time in their lives.
Collaborative Divorce isn’t for Everyone
Though collaborative divorce has many benefits, and is growing in popularity, it is not for everyone. The process requires the ex-partners to trust one another enough to come to an agreement about how they are to split up their property and raise any children they have together. It is simply impossible for some couples to have the open and honest conversations the process requires.
When it is unlikely that a couple will be able to work out their differences amicably, attempting to do so is a waste of time and money.