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Another Way Through Divorce: Collaborative Divorce

Summary

Collaborative Divorce is an alternative to the litigated divorce process that occurs in the courtroom. It is an alternative dispute resolution program using a team of professionals specially trained to interrupt disruptive conduct to accomplish the goals of the couple in terminating the marriage.

Divorce Wars

So, you've decided to get a divorce. I am sure this is not what you expected when you married. But, life happens, and this is where you are now. Heartbroken, scared, and wondering just how to get through this. Maybe, you've spoken with a friend or two that has gone through a divorce. They may have told you horror stories about the court process. That it was like world war three and resulted in making a bad situation even worse. There is, however, another way through. In fact, in Collaborative Divorce, you may never need to step foot in the courtroom at all.

Private Divorce Method

Collaborative divorce is a private divorce method. All matters are worked out at roundtable sessions with professionals prior to ever filing paperwork with the courts. You and your spouse sign an agreement that neither of you will go into court until all matters are settled at the table. The idea is that everything in the household maintains the status quo. No running up credit card debt, hiding money, making major purchases or moving the children. You and your spouse have separate attorneys and you, together, hire a financial neutral, and a communications neutral. Through a series of individual meetings with the professionals and joint meetings between the spouses and all the professionals, agreements are worked out about what your relationship after the divorce will look like. What will your separate incomes be. Where will you live? What will parenting time look like? How will the assets be divided? You decide. When all this is resolved, the attorneys write up the paperwork and file it in court. You and your spouse can then proceed directly to the final hearing before a private judge in a conference room. At the final hearing, the private judge will ask you both questions to make sure you understand the documents and that this is what you really want. Then, the documents are signed and filed with the court. You and your spouse will each get a certified copy of the final orders and your divorce will be complete. This process is a very effective way to reduce conflict and move through an unpleasant experience as quickly as possible. And the benefit is, you have control over your own life in the divorce process. You will like the end result much better. And because you both have agreed, the chances are lessened that you will have to go back to court to modify the agreements.

The Court Process

Divorce proceedings In Court are adversarial. A judge decides the issues if you and your spouse cannot agree. The judge does not know you or your family and will not have time to get to know you before he or she makes decisions about your life. If financial experts are required, two usually are hired, one for each party. Often a Guardian Ad Litem is court appointed if children are involved. The court may appoint a counselor or psychologist to do psychological examinations if requested or the discord becomes too great. If one spouse hires a psychologist, the other will likely have to hire another psychologist to counter the first psychologist's testimony. The case can become a war of experts. And you and your spouse will have to foot the bill for all of it. This often drains family finances. It is always better for you and your spouse to work out these matters on your own. Even Domestic Relations Judges often will say that the parties can work out an agreement far superior to anything he or she can order.

The Team Approach

You may be asking: "But why do I need a team; all those professionals who we must pay. It sounds expensive" That is a legitimate question. The chances are you will have a team whether you use the Collaborative Divorce process or not. In court, both spouses will have their own attorney. The court will appoint other professionals as the judge or magistrate sees fit. Or, if one spouse hires an expert, the other spouse will need to, also. In Collaborative Divorce, the couple's hiring of one financial and one communications neutral may actually decrease the number of professionals retained. The financial and communications neutrals remain just that. Rather than having the war of the experts, the neutrals are trained in communication styles that reduce argumentation. The financial neutral lets the parties know the "what is so" with regard to the finances, giving a picture of the options for dividing assets and debt. The communications neutral helps the couple work through shared parenting plans and generally acts as a buffer to calm emotions. Often, the question is not whether there will be a team. It is who will choose it. Collaborative Divorce allows the spouses to do so.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that divorce is not fun. But it also does not have to be world war three. Collaborative Divorce offers an alternative to the normal adversarial court process. For more information about Collaborative Divorce, contact me. I offer a 30-minute free consultation to explain the process. I would be happy to answer any question you may have. And I would be happy to work with you to accomplish your family goals through this process.

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