Taking your divorce to court can feel like going to battle. The dueling sides often aim to hurt the other. There is a winner and a loser.
There are divorce cases that can only reach a conclusion through a divorce trial. However, many disputes over divorce terms can be resolved through collaborative divorce.
Benefits of Collaborative Divorce
The concept of collaborative divorce is relatively new. The idea was born in Minnesota in 1990. A divorce attorney there only wanted to negotiate divorce settlements outside of court. If a couple decided to go to court, a different lawyer would represent them in the trial.
Collaborative law today uses some of those basic principles first used in Minnesota. Each spouse has an attorney through the collaborative process. The couple and their attorneys sign an agreement to avoid going to court and commit to working out their differences in good faith. This signed contract also states that if there is a breakdown in the process and an agreement cannot be reached, then both lawyers withdraw from the case. The divorcing parties hire new counsel to represent them in court.
Most collaborative processes are successful with many advantages over litigation:
- More convenient: Both spouses and their attorneys schedule meetings according to their availability, not the court’s docket.
- Less costly: A litigated divorce is procedurally more complex. There are pre-trial conferences, pleadings, motions, witness preparation, and other details that take legal know-how and additional expense.
- Quicker pace: Because the collaborative process is not dependent on the schedule and process of divorce court, the two sides can more quickly resolve the issues and draft a divorce agreement.
Collaborative divorce can settle all outstanding issues between spouses:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Debt division
- Distribution of marital property
- Spousal maintenance
Each spouse meets separately with their attorneys and attends collaborative sessions with all four participants. How many meetings occur depends on the number and complexity of the disputes. Instead of the win-lose scenario that is typically created in a divorce trial, collaboration can lead to win-win outcomes. Both spouses actively participate in crafting their solutions with the help of their attorneys.
Compliance with divorce terms is higher in agreements reached through collaborative law than when the terms are dictated by a judge.
Collaborative Divorce Is Not Mediation
Collaborative divorce is often thought to be equivalent to mediation. The two are different processes. In divorce mediation, the two parties meet with a neutral third party who cannot provide legal advice. While the collaborative process requires an attorney to represent their client’s best interests, there is no similar mandatory safeguard in mediation.
Complicated matters and power imbalances between spouses are best navigated with legal counsel in a collaborative format.
Collaborative Divorce Is Not Always Appropriate
Spouses using collaborative law for their divorce must be transparent about their finances and refrain from trying to control what happens. Those ground rules do not work for everyone.
While many divorces can be handled through collaborative law, some contested divorces are best handled in court. If one party refuses to participate in the collaborative process, then going to court is the better option. Cases of domestic violence, coercion, narcissism, and other unhealthy dynamics between the parties are not suited for collaborative divorce. Divorce court is also the more appropriate venue if one spouse is hiding income and assets.
Decide if Collaborative Divorce Is Right for You
If you are considering divorce, you are best served by understanding all your options.
At Samuelson Hause PLLC, our attorneys have more than 100 years of collective experience in helping New Yorkers through the emotional and legal concerns inherent in the dissolution of a marriage. Our skills and background help clients restart their lives.
Schedule a consultation to ask questions and learn whether mediation, collaboration, or litigation will best support your goals. You can reach us online or call (516) 584-4685.