Introducing Collaborative Divorce
DIVORCE (de-vors) n. — divorce is essentially a restructuring of the relationship between husband and wife and their child(ren) and a restructuring of their assets, debts and finances.
Collaborative Divorce represents a revolutionary approach to family law. The Collaborative Divorce model represents a major departure from traditional methods of divorce by avoiding court and addressing the significant, but often overlooked, impact of divorce on personal health and financial matters.
The most important distinction with the Collaborative Divorce process is that the courts are never involved until the final decree. A team of Collaborative professionals, made up of attorneys, mental health professionals & financial professionals, guide the parties to a mutually agreeable divorce settlement. This is the only method of divorce that formally incorporates the services and benefits of three professions to help you through what may be the most difficult time of your life.
The goal of Collaborative Divorce is to provide a method of dissolving a marriage that reduces the stress, time & expense normally associated with a traditionally litigated divorce.
Collaborative Practice — Origins
The Collaborative Divorce model was created in 1990 by Stu Webb, an attorney practicing in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Webb observed the destructiveness of the traditional adversarial models for practicing family law and felt there had to be a better way. He created the Collaborative Divorce model and founded a rapidly growing movement throughout the United States, Canada, Australia & several European countries.
The Collaborative Professionals of Nevada is affiliated with the International Academy of Collaborative professionals. For more information, visit their website at http://www.collaborativepractice.com/.
Principles of Collaborative Practice
The heart of Collaborative Practice or Collaborative Divorce (also called “no-court divorce,” “divorce with dignity,” “peaceful divorce”) is to offer you and your spouse or partner the support, protection, and guidance of your own lawyers without going to court. Additionally, Collaborative Divorce allows you the benefit of child and financial specialists, divorce coaches and other professionals all working together on your team. The clients have the option of starting their divorce process with any of the professionals, and then adding other professionals as needed. The collaborative process empowers the parties to craft their own agreements, incorporating the highest priorities of all involved.
There are several primary principles which separate the collaborative process from traditional litigation:
- The parties personally negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement, without using the court to decide issues for them.
- The parties agree to open communication and full disclosure of all relevant information, which eliminates the need for expensive discovery.
- The collaborative process mandates that all professionals must withdraw from the representing or assisting either client, if either client engages in any form of litigation about the dispute. This principle ensures the confidentiality and integrity of the process. It further reduces the likelihood that either party will threaten to go to court and, therefore, encourages the clients to remain in the process to find mutually – acceptable and creative solutions.
A Different Approach That Promotes Peace and Avoids War
While our adversarial court system has served society well for criminal trials and civil disputes, it has proven to be less than ideal for divorce and family matters. Too often our justice system results in divorces that are far too expensive and stressful, while leaving both parties unsatisfied with unmet needs.
While traditional divorce encourages parties to “fight” their way to a final settlement, the goal of Collaborative Divorce is to reduce conflict, focus on solutions and to encourage healing throughout the divorce process.
Collaborative Divorce has been developed from an understanding of the stress, fears and uncertainties associated with divorce. Our professionals call upon many years of practical, professional experience to promote peaceful divorce settlements.
Is Collaborative Practice Right For You?
The Collaborative process is helpful in the majority of cases given that it helps the parties resolve disputes in a more efficient, supportive, and respectful manner, and enables the parties to reach customized agreements.
There are some situations, however, in which this model may not be indicated. This includes, for example, situations in which one or both parties have been physically violent, or when one of the parties is domineering over the other party. The model may be helpful in this situations given the close oversight and support inherent in the open team model.
Moreover, if serious mental health and / or serious drug / alcohol issues exist, then additional specialized services & care may be required as an adjunct to the collaborative process to facilitate divorce proceedings.
Divorce & the Effects of Stress
Divorce is one of the most stressful events that an adult will ever endure during their lifetime, ranking close to the death of a child or an immediate family member. As divorce often involves relocating, financial restructuring and numerous emotional adjustments, considerable stress is unavoidable and may have serious effects on a person’s psychological and physical health. Stress impacts the body’s ability to fight illness and often results in health problems from a weakened immune system. Published studies have shown that the stress experienced during a divorce can result in significant, adverse health consequences.
Children, the Unintended Victims
Children of divorce may suffer the most while having the least ability to cope with personal distress. Unfortunately, children are too often used as pawns and can experience enormous levels of stress when the comfort of their nuclear family is dissolved. As conflict can easily escalate and overtake divorce proceedings, children are frequently left vulnerable and without a voice. From educational difficulties to personal relationship issues, the psychological damage from a conflict-ridden divorce can affect children for the remainder of their lives.
The involvement of a mental health professional in the capacity of a Child Specialist can be of invaluable benefit for the the children. This professional can assess the feelings and needs of the children, thereby helping them to feel supported during this difficult time. The Child Specialist will also inform the parents and team of the child’s needs, concerns, and desires, so this can be incorporated into the final parenting plan.
Key Advantages of Collaborative Practice
For the great majority of people, Collaborative Divorce will be less expensive, often far less expensive, than traditional methods, even while employing an entire team of professionals.
In a typical collaborative case, each party has an attorney and a divorce coach. The parties then mutually employ a neutral financial specialist.
In the course of a traditional divorce, lawyers will spend many hours preparing and filing complaints, answers, motion, taking depositions, etc. Many hours are also spent in court, sometimes waiting hours for a case to be heard, and then preparing court orders afterwards. If your divorce case goes to trial, many more hours will also be spent for trial preparation and then for trial itself. With Collaborative Divorce, lawyers are not spending time preparing formal court papers or attending court. The lawyers, clients and the other team members work in large or small team meetings as needed and communicate by phone, letters or email. Far less time is needed to accomplish these tasks and no time is spent in court.
Collaborative Divorce strives to provide people with a real alternative which offers constructive support to help families cope with the reality and consequences of divorce while minimizing hardships.
Furthermore, the parties and the Collaborative Team set their own schedules for meetings, while not being controlled or limited by court schedules and availability.
How Collaborative Practice Works
The Collaborative Divorce process begins with a signed participation agreement. Both parties agree that they will not go to court, that they will not threaten others with going to court and that they will strive hard to resolve their case through good faith, reason, common sense and creative negotiations to reach a mutually acceptable divorce settlement.
The unique aspect of this process is that the Collaborative Team works entirely outside of the court system. Everything is conducted in private meetings and through private communications in an open, non-confrontational setting.
The main advantage of Collaborative Divorce is that the parties are always in charge of their own resolution. The Collaborative Team only suggests and provides appropriate options, solutions, and compromises. The parties decide the terms of their divorce, not the lawyers or a judge. When the terms of an agreement are reached, the Collaborative Team’s purpose is to facilitate the parties’ decisions into legally binding arrangements.
If the Collaborative Divorce Process fails for any reason, none of the associated professionals can represent either party or serve as witnesses in court. The only vested interest for the collaborative professional is in helping both parties reach a mutually agreeable settlement outside of court.
The result is that both parties must work very hard to settle their case and reach an agreeable resolution. If an agreement cannot be reached, both parties must begin the divorce process again with new attorneys and other professionals.