One of the largest misconceptions about divorce is that it is a long, drawn-out and combative process. However, this is far from the truth in most successfully finalized divorces. With amicable divorce methods on the rise, most divorce cases do not go to trial. Instead, they are resolved through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods such as negotiation, mediation and collaborative law.
In collaborative practice, parties are contractually committed to:
- Negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement without having courts decide issues
- Maintain open communication and information sharing
- Create shared solutions acknowledging the highest priorities of all
In practice, using collaborative law to resolve a divorce will involve a series of open group meetings where the parties and their attorneys meet to discuss resolutions. Agendas are developed for these meetings, and parties and attorneys collaborate to resolve preliminary and final issues for the family. The first meetings might determine preliminary custody, parenting time and support issues as well as who will occupy the marital residence and who will be responsible for which expenses. Further meetings would focus on how to bring the case to a final resolution and develop a collaborative settlement agreement.
Like mediation, the collaborative process is confidential. However, unlike mediation, if the collaborative process fails and the parties ultimately decide to go to court, their collaborative attorneys must withdraw, and they must hire new attorneys.
The benefits of engaging in the collaborative divorce process rather than litigation are many. First, the process is less stressful for both parties as they are not fighting each other. Instead, they are working with each other in an amicable manner. Second, the process is much more efficient and cost-effective than litigation. Lastly, rather than having a judge determine the final resolution on divorce issues, such as spousal support/alimony, child custody, child support, visitation, parenting time and property division, the parties themselves tailor their own unique agreement.