Collaborative Divorce

What is Collaborative Divorce?
What is in the Collaborative Agreement?
Who should use Collaborative Divorce?
How does a Collaborative Divorce work?
What are the advantages to a Collaborative Divorce?

Here is a brief video that gives a good overview of the Collaborative process, followed by a series of answers to the questions listed above.

What is Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce is a new and progressive way for divorcing couples to resolve their disputes peacefully and with respect for one another – without going to court.  When couples in North Carolina decide to separate or divorce, they must find a way to resolve all outstanding issues, potentially including: child custody and support, post-separation support and alimony, and property division.  Collaborative law is a method of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that is designed to minimize the conflict between the parties as they work towards resolving all of the issues in their case.

Although each client has the support and counsel of their own attorney, they will work together, collaboratively, with a team of trained professionals (financial specialists, accountants, therapists, and child counselors) to help them come to win-win, outside the box solutions to any and all contested issues.

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What about the Agreement?

A collaborative divorce is distinguished from a traditional divorce in large part by a Participation Agreement that is entered into at the beginning of the process by the clients and all chosen professionals.  The agreement requires both parties to:

  1. Exchange complete financial information so that each spouse can make well-informed decisions
  2. Maintain absolute confidentiality during the process, so that each spouse can feel free to express his or her needs and concerns,
  3. Reach written agreement on all issues and concerns without using the court to decide any contested issues
  4. Withdrawal of all professionals (including attorneys) if either client chooses to go to court (except to obtain a final divorce decree)

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Is Collaborative Law right for you?

Collaborative law empowers spouses to dissolve their marriage with dignity.  Any divorce is ripe for the collaborative process, but you should especially consider collaborative law if both you and your spouse:

  • Believe it is important to protect your children from the harm litigation can inflict
  • Place a high value on personal responsibility in resolving conflict
  • Are able to focus on a positive solution for the entire family
  • Want to preserve a respectful working relationship during and after the process is over
  • See the need to disclose full and accurate information about financial issues

If either you or your spouse are unable to work this way, then a collaborative divorce may not be right for you.  Furthermore, there are a number of attorneys who will advertise that they are collaborative lawyers, who really just aren’t.  If you are just starting to think about your divorce, and would like to pursue the collaborative option, it is important for both you and your spouse to find an attorney who is willing to participate in the collaborative process.

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How Collaborative Divorce works

First, both spouses must meet with their respective collaborative attorneys to discuss individual needs and concerns.  Then, the couple and their attorneys meet in a series of four-way sessions to reach a settlement without involving the court.  Every possible issue – including property division, child custody and time sharing, support (both spousal and child support) – is put “on the table” in these sessions.  At some of the meetings, other professionals, such as Mental Health Professionals and Financial Experts, may participate and become part of the “team” to assist the couples jointly in reaching resolutions.  Divorcing parties benefit from the skills, advice, and support of attorneys and other professionals while striving to work things out in a positive, resolution-focused manner.

When a settlement is reached, attorneys file the appropriate paperwork required by the court.

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Key advantages to a Collaborative Divorce

  • Control.  You retain control over your divorce and how it is resolved.  Though both you and your spouse each have a lawyer, you will both take responsibility for shaping the settlement as the primary members of the team.
  • Time.  Typically, a collaborative divorce takes less time than a traditional divorce.  North Carolina is a perfect state for a collaborative divorce, as a one-year period of separation is required prior to filing for divorce.  Many couples can resolve their entire case during the period of separation, and finalize the divorce as soon as the one-year separation period is over.  With traditional litigation, the issues surrounding the divorce can take many years to resolve, often on terms that are dictated by a judge, not the parties.
  • Support.  You gain support.  You craft the settlement cooperatively with your spouse while benefiting from your attorney’s advocacy, problem-solving, and negotiating skills. You receive insight and support from other professionals who assist in identifying your interests and your children’s needs.
  • Focus.  You can focus on attempting to settle the case, rather than fearing court hearings and depositions.  Removing the threat of “going to court” reduces anxiety and fear, thereby helping you focus on finding positive solutions.
  • Foundation.  You lay the foundation for a better future.  There is no pain-free way to end a marriage, but by reducing stress, working in a climate of cooperation, and treating each other with respect, both you and your spouse are creating an environment in which you and your children can thrive.
  • Cost Savings.  You get more by combining your resources (i.e. it is not necessary for both you and your spouse to hire each requisite expert – only one is required). As a result, the collaborative process is usually less costly and time-consuming than litigation.  When you reach an agreement, it can be finalized within a shorter time frame.  You do not get bogged down for months while you wait for a court date.
  • Customized Settlements.  You are able to negotiate a better settlement.  Every family is unique and deserves a unique solution to the issues raised in a separation or divorce proceeding.  The collaborative process produces final agreements that are frequently more detailed and complete than any order that would be issued by a judge after a contested court proceeding.

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