Monday, December 4, 2006

The Collaborative Divorce Approach

A new non-adversarial divorce process is sweeping the country. This new paradigm is known as collaborative divorce. Collaborative divorce is a process involving family law attorneys, mental health professionals and financial specialists, all working together cooperatively to bring about a solution that is fair, just and equitable for all family members.

Collaborative divorce is an out-of-court process that assists husbands and wives to dissolve their marriage in a compassionate, practical and informed way, while proceeding at their own pace - not based on the court’s schedule.

Collaborative divorce is a process that supports the entire family and provides for a smooth transition for all family members. This method puts together a professional team for each couple who agree to use the process. Just as in the traditional adversarial process, both husband and wife choose an attorney to represent them; however, these attorneys have been specially-trained in the collaborative process.

Joining the team are two or three mental health professionals, one of whom is retained by each spouse as their coach, and one who is hired as the child specialist - serving as the voice of the children. Rounding off the team (if needed) is the financial specialist, who is a certified financial planner, or in some cases a certified public accountant. The attorneys, mental health professionals and financial specialists have received specialized training in the collaborative divorce process.

In the traditional adversarial divorce method, many parents use the process as a therapeutic tool to heal or sooth their pain, to justify their actions, or to seek vindication for the perceived “wrong” of the other parent, all of which become powerful emotional weapons to be used to “win at all costs” - and cost it does, a lot, both emotionally and financially.

In the collaborative process, instead of paying their attorneys to conduct research, discovery and trial preparation to “battle” the other spouse, the parties spend their money on resolving the issues constructively and fairly with the cooperative assistance of their attorneys and other team members. The team is not only committed to keep the parties out of court, they are also there to help the husband and wife transition their marriage into two households in a peaceful, intelligent and restorative manner.

Therefore, rather than spending the parties’ resources in numerous court appearances, which have the potential to embitter spouses to exaggerate and exacerbate their differences, the collaborative approach can be less expensive and far less stressful.

The inclusion of the education and information team approach promotes positive healing for all family members, which provides the parties with the opportunity to make the most informed and creative decisions regarding their children. It allows the parties to make intelligent informed decisions regarding the division of their property and the distribution of future support, which will affect the financial future of all family members.

Collaborative divorce is a process which puts the parties directly in charge of their own affairs, a process not typically available under the traditional adversarial method. The adversarial process pits the two attorneys against each other. Then the judge, with no prior knowledge of the family or family dynamics, will make a decision which will affect the entire family for the rest of their lives.

In the collaborative model, power and control is maintained by the family, benefitting all family members by taking into account the uniqueness of each family member.

Comparing Collaborative vs. Adversarial Divorce:

Each of the professionals on the Collaborative team assist both husband and wife to make informed decisions in an atmosphere of respect and fairness. Without the judge to make the orders, the divorcing couple is empowered to make their own informed decisions with the advice and guidance of their professional team.

The husband and wife control the pace of their divorce and the decisions being made. The husband and wife receive advice and guidance from a team of professionals, who will not only help them through the current divorce process, but enrich their future lives as well.

The children have a voice without fear of what they say being used against one of their parents in court.

Compared to the cost of the traditional adversarial litigation method, the cost of the collaborative divorce process is much less expensive. Dissolving a marriage collaboratively encourages respect and a continuing civil relationship between husband and wife, which is paramount when children are involved.

Key Benefits of the Collaborative Divorce Process:

Mutually created resolutions.

Mutually satisfying resolutions.

Durable agreements.

New tools for effective problem-solving in the future, such as co-parenting issues.

Provides other professional resources to smooth transitions.

Provides a safe environment for difficult conversations.

How does the Collaborative Process Maximize Financial Resources?

Focus and time are spent on resolving problems and creating solutions, not creating more problems through numerous court appearances.

The expertise of each team member is brought to bear on creating family solutions.

Emotional issues which can inhibit the divorce process are addressed.

Working collaboratively and using one neutral financial professional saves time, provides focus and frames financial issues for the parties’ team to solve problems.

The process allows all parties to talk with one another to prevent costly, time consuming misunderstandings and additional litigation.

The attorneys act as guides through the process, educating their clients regarding the law, instead of taking an advocacy position and then fighting it out in court.

The attorneys and coaches assist the clients in looking to future long-term goals for themselves and their children, in place of setting the client up for more hearings in the future.

BY: Marvin Chapman

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