The Collaborative Divorce Model: What Women Should Know
Divorce is undoubtedly one of the most emotionally and financially challenging events that a person can go through in life. The adversarial nature of traditional divorce proceedings can exacerbate the stress and tension, making it a grueling process for everyone involved. Mediation has long been seen as an alternative but sometimes does not offer adequate support. Collaborative Divorce, on the other hand, offers an alternative approach that aims to foster cooperation and amicable resolutions in an environment that offers structure and protection for all family members. In this article, we will delve into the pros and cons of a Collaborative Divorce and, specifically, highlight what women should keep in mind when considering this path.
The Collaborative Divorce Process: A Brief Overview
Collaborative Divorce is a method of dispute resolution where both parties, with the assistance of their respective attorneys, work together to find mutually beneficial solutions outside of the courtroom. The process emphasizes open communication, negotiation, and problem-solving, rather than resorting to adversarial litigation. It typically involves a series of meetings and discussions during which both parties and their attorneys address various issues such as property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support. It also encourages the use of non-lawyer professionals who provide financial, parenting and emotional assistance to effectively address every aspect of the divorce experience.
The Pros of Collaborative Divorce
Less Stress and Emotional Strain
A Collaborative Divorce can be significantly less stressful than a traditional court-based divorce. The atmosphere is generally more conducive to maintaining civility and addressing emotional concerns, allowing the couple to focus on finding resolutions that work best for everyone involved. Make no mistake that divorce is stressful in and of itself but one of the primary goals of the Collaborative process is to address issues that cause that stress and to meet them head on with targeted guidance rather than leave the couple on their own to somehow figure it out.
More Control Over Outcomes
Another advantage of Collaborative Divorce is that a couple maintains control over the decision-making process. This autonomy enables them to craft customized solutions that align with their specific needs and the needs of their children, instead of subjecting them to decisions imposed by a judge who may not fully comprehend their unique situation or their love for their children. No one compels them to agree to anything that lacks coherence to them, and while not every aspect of the final agreement may appear perfect, both spouses can envision a path forward they can wholeheartedly accept.
Better Communication and Coparenting
Collaborative Divorce encourages open and honest communication between spouses with the help of the lawyers and other professionals. This level of communication can establish the foundation for a more effective co-parenting relationship, which is particularly vital when children are in the picture.
While the overall cost of a collaborative divorce can vary depending on the complexity of the issues involved, it generally tends to be less expensive than a litigated divorce. With fewer court appearances and less time spent in litigation, legal fees are often lower and professional fees are spent reaching resolution rather than stoking the flames of argument. The overwhelming majority (95%) of divorces cases settle before a judge makes a decision after trial, so focusing the dollars spent on reaching that resolution is fiscally responsible.
Consider reading, “How to (Smartly) Plan for a Divorce When It’s Not What You Want.”
The Collaborative process typically occurs behind closed doors, ensuring a level of confidentiality that traditional court proceedings do not always guarantee. This can be particularly important for high-profile individuals or couples who value their privacy.
The Cons of Collaborative Divorce
Not Suitable for All Situations
Collaborative divorce may not be the best option if there is a significant power imbalance between the spouses, a history of abuse, or if one party is uncooperative or unwilling to negotiate in good faith.
Inability to Litigate
Once the collaborative process begins, the attorneys involved must withdraw from the case if an agreement cannot be reached. This keeps everyone fully committed to the settlement process but may feel problematic if negotiations start to fall apart. This means starting over with new attorneys and potentially resorting to traditional litigation, which can prolong the divorce process and increase costs.
While Collaborative divorce aims to reduce emotional strain, the process can still be emotionally challenging. Addressing the end of a marriage and the associated life changes can be difficult, regardless of the method used.
Wondering why your experience feels different compared to what your partner says they are feeling?
Check out “The Truth About Divorce for Women.”
What Women Should Keep in Mind
Women considering a Collaborative Divorce should prioritize being informed and prepared for the process. Here are some specific considerations:
- Know Your Rights: Before entering into any divorce process, educate yourself about your rights and entitlements concerning property, support, and custody matters. Understanding your legal standing will enable you to negotiate more effectively and ensure a fair outcome.
- Consult with a Knowledgeable Attorney: Collaborative Divorce requires trained, skilled and experienced attorneys who are committed to the Collaborative process. Select an attorney who possesses expertise in family law and boasts a successful track record in handling Collaborative Divorces.
- Prioritize Your Needs and Interests: It’s crucial to prioritize your needs and interests while being open to compromise in any negotiation process and Collaborative Divorce is no exception. Understanding what is most important to you will help guide negotiations and ensure that your concerns are adequately addressed. Get some professional advice and guidance to help you figure this out. What is immediately on the surface (especially in the early days) may not be what turns out to be your greatest priority.
- Focus on Effective Communication: Clear and respectful communication with your spouse is key to a successful collaborative divorce. Be willing to listen and understand their perspective, as this can lead to more constructive discussions and resolutions. Married couples often get into a familiar and unproductive conflict dynamic. Be willing to change that dynamic and resist the temptation to fall into it in the negotiations.
- Consider the Children: If children are involved, keep their best interests at heart throughout the process. Collaborate with your spouse to create a parenting plan that fosters a healthy coparenting relationship and supports the children’s well-being.
- Stay Committed to the Process: Collaborative Divorce requires commitment from both parties. Be prepared to invest time and effort into the process, attending meetings and engaging in negotiations to achieve the best possible outcome.
Collaborative Divorce offers a more amicable and less stressful approach to ending a marriage. While it may not be suitable for every situation, it can be an empowering and efficient process for many couples. For women considering a Collaborative Divorce, understanding their rights, priorities, and options is crucial. By engaging in open communication, prioritizing the needs of all parties involved, and seeking experienced legal guidance, women can navigate the Collaborative Divorce process with confidence and find resolutions that benefit everyone in the family.
There is a lot of information about Collaborative Divorce at Miller-law.com For an opportunity to discuss whether Collaborative could work for you, please give us a call at 914-302-5975.
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*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”