Collaborative Divorce Offers a Flexible Alternative to the Traditional Divorce Process
When going through a divorce, there are certain issues you need to address. There is simply no way around distributing your marital assets and debts, and if you have minor children, you will need to address parenting time and child support as well. But, while you and your spouse will need to deal with these issues to bring your marriage to a close, doing so does not have to be a confrontational or litigious process.
Today, divorcing spouses have various options for achieving an amicable divorce settlement. One of these options is pursuing what is known as a “collaborative divorce.” The collaborative divorce process offers several benefits, and it can be a viable solution in a wide range of circumstances.
What Is a Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative divorce is an interest-based negotiation process for finalizing a divorce. Pursuing a collaborative divorce involves the parties working cooperatively with a team of professionals to reach a mutually agreeable resolution. As in other divorce scenarios, each spouse is represented by his or her own attorney. The collaborative divorce team consists of the attorneys representing the spouses, a financial neutral professional and a neutral communications facilitator. The attorneys represent their respective clients and advocate for them just as in a traditional divorce, however, the clients and attorneys are assisted by the neutral financial professional to assist with helping the clients in meeting their financial goals in the divorce. The neutral communications facilitator assists by keeping the parties and their respective attorneys focused on reaching parties’ goals in the divorce.
Working with their respective attorneys, the spouses formally agree to use the collaborative divorce process—entering into a written agreement that confirms their intent to reach a settlement without going to court.
After this initial step, the collaborative divorce process begins in earnest. The spouses mutually disclose all known assets, debts, and income sources, to the team of professionals and then work with the team to reach a property agreement that is satisfactory to both parties. The team works to address complicated issues such as property valuation and formulating a parenting plan that reflects their children’s best interests.
At the end of the collaborative divorce process, the spouses will have a comprehensive divorce settlement agreement that they can submit to the court (through their attorneys) for approval. At this point, their divorce—and their marriage—will be over. If the collaborative process proves unsuccessful for any reason (which is relatively rare given both spouses’ commitment to the process at the outset), they can continue working toward a final outcome through other means.
What Are the Benefits of a Collaborative Divorce?
The collaborative divorce process offers several benefits. As the benefits to each spouse are largely equal, it will often be in both spouses’ best interests to pursue a collaborative divorce. Some examples of the benefits include:
1. An Amicable Process
A collaborative divorce is, by nature, an amicable process. For the process to work—and for the process even to begin—both spouses need to agree that the best approach is to finalize their divorce without allowing their disagreements to escalate to disputes that cannot be resolved without court intervention.
2. A Mutually Agreeable Outcome
Going through the collaborative divorce process allows divorcing spouses to reach a mutually agreeable outcome on all aspects of their divorce. This includes alimony, property division, child support and parenting time. By coming to a comprehensive agreement, divorcing spouses can plan for the future, and they can avoid the inherent uncertainty of asking a judge to make decisions for them.
3. Expert Advice
When going through a collaborative divorce, spouses can obtain expert advice as necessary. This can be beneficial for various aspects of the divorce process. For example, spouses can obtain an accurate valuation of their home or family business for the purpose of dividing their marital assets by hiring appraisers, and they can work with experienced family counselors and mental health advisors to make informed decisions about what is best for their children.
The collaborative divorce process is private. When pursuing a collaborative divorce, spouses are not required to make court filings that disclose personal information, and they are not required to present arguments in open court. The entire process is completely confidential, and when engaging experts to assist with their divorce, spouses can have these experts sign confidentiality agreements as well.
5. Efficiency and Cost Savings
Since collaborative divorce avoids contentious disputes and prolonged court proceedings, the process is both more efficient and less expensive than going the traditional route. Saving money is a concept with which both spouses can generally get on board, and this alone can be a significant factor that facilitates an agreement to pursue a collaborative divorce.
Who Should (and Shouldn’t) Consider a Collaborative Divorce?
While collaborative divorce affords several benefits, it won’t be the best option in all circumstances. Who should (and shouldn’t) consider a collaborative divorce? Pursuing a collaborative divorce may be a good option if:
- You and your spouse are both ready to end your marriage;
- You and your spouse are both forthcoming and transparent in providing all of your property information and,
- You and your spouse are both interested in achieving an amicable and efficient resolution.
Conversely, the collaborative divorce process is less likely to prove effective if:
- You find it difficult to have conversations without your spouse getting angry or frustrated; or,
- You have reason to believe that your spouse will attempt to hide assets, income sources, or other relevant information during your divorce.
With that said, if you have questions about pursuing a collaborative divorce, you should absolutely discuss your options with your attorney. Even if your spouse is currently being confrontational, your attorney may be able to speak with your spouse’s attorney about getting him or her to see the bigger picture.
How Can I Get My Spouse to Consider a Collaborative Divorce?
If you are interested in pursuing a collaborative divorce, you will need to ensure your spouse is also interested. If you and your spouse are on good terms, you can refer your spouse to resources (such as this page) so that he or she can learn more. If you think your spouse may initially be opposed to the idea, we can provide you with some strategies for broaching the subject, and if desired, we can communicate with your spouse’s attorney about the prospect of pursuing a collaborative divorce.
Contact Us to Schedule a Confidential Divorce Consultation
If you would like to know more about pursuing a collaborative divorce in Texas, we encourage you to get in touch. To schedule a confidential divorce consultation with attorney Christine K. Lincoln, please call 281-970-9005 or inquire online today.