A collaborative divorce is very different from a typical courthouse divorce because of the collaborative process.
In a collaborative divorce the spouses agree at the beginning of the divorce that they will not go to court, but will work through the issues that must be resolved outside the courtroom. They and their lawyers sign a contract where they promise to try to settle all the issues of their case outside of court. When the threat of court is removed clients are more comfortable to speak and negotiate the issues in their case.
In the collaborative divorce process each spouse has their own specially trained and experienced collaborative divorce attorney and together the spouses with their lawyers work through the case issues using a method known as “interest-based negotiation”. This method enables spouses to negotiate and reach agreements that focus on their most important individual and mutual goals rather than going to court and fighting to ‘win’.
This process often results in solutions that enable each person impacted by the divorce, including their children, to have the best post-divorce lives possible. Parents divorcing collaboratively are better able to communicate with each other about their children post-divorce and in many cases to co-parent post-divorce. These parents will have experience talking with each other about their children in a safe environment with trained professionals present in the process. These parents can more readily protect their children from the damaging effects of a contentious courthouse divorce where the parents rarely speak to each other while getting divorced and are focused on ‘winning’.
In a collaborative divorce meetings are scheduled and an agenda is circulated in advance so each side has time to talk with their attorney and prepare to discuss the issues on the agenda at the meeting. There are fewer surprises and less stress compared to going to court.
This also means the case operates on a family’s schedule rather than the schedule of the courts. Couples have the flexibility to schedule meetings with their collaborative team when all participants can meet. This is very different from a courthouse divorce where court hearings are often schedule by one side without consideration for the schedule of the other side.
The collaborative divorce process is a private and confidential process. There are no public courthouse hearings and there is no court reporter taking down what is said. The meetings are usually conducted in a conference room at a lawyer’s office. Discussions can be emotional but they are respectful. This is very different from a courthouse hearing where lawyers are trying to make the other side look bad while hoping the judge will rule in their client’s favor.
Just as in a traditional courthouse divorce, each spouse will have confidential conversations with their own attorney and a strategy for accomplishing their goals.
However, in the collaborative divorce process those goals can be shared and discussed in the meetings. The spouses get to talk to one another about their children and their finances with a focus on their future, rather than having courthouse hearings where each side is trying to place blame. Agreements are usually reached without destroying the relationship between the spouses or exhausting the marital estate on a court battle.
The collaborative divorce process is a legally authorized settlement process that focuses on helping couples express their interests and goals and find their way to respectful resolution.
The process provides an emotionally safe environment and the structure needed for a divorcing couple to work with their lawyer, but also to communicate with each other to reach a mutually-agreeable settlement. All of this is done in a private setting without going to court.