No couple wishes for a divorce. The process is often painful and acrimonious. However, it is possible to minimize the unpleasant aspects of divorce. Using a variation of alternative dispute resolution called collaborative divorce, the couple can achieve a settlement through a process that seeks to solve problems jointly, avoids contentious litigation and, if children are involved, makes their best interests a priority.
In a collaborative divorce, the couple works with attorneys experienced in collaborative law, and if necessary other neutral professionals to arrive at a mutually acceptable divorce settlement. The goal is to do so without the uncertainty and contentiousness that typically accompanies a traditional divorce process. A collaborative divorce is a voluntary process. Many states, including North Carolina, have statutes that define the collaborative divorce process. Typically, it begins with the couple signing a contract known as a participation agreement. In the participation agreement both parties agree to commit to the collaborative process. Both parties agree to provide a full disclosure of their financial information and that they will work cooperatively to reach a settlement that meets the needs of the entire family. The parties then begin the negotiation process with their attorneys. Neutral experts are brought into the process upon agreement of both parties if extra guidance is necessary. Experts may include financial planners, real estate appraisers, parenting specialists, or other professional as required by the circumstances. For example, a parenting specialist may be brought in to help work out custody and parenting arrangements that fit the unique needs of your family. Consistent with a goal of a collaborative divorce, a parenting specialist will help ensure that children remain priorities, not casualties.
The advantages of a collaborative divorce include:
- Promotes open communication
- Uses a problem-solving approach
- Emphasizes the needs of children, if any
- Creates agreements that both parties are more likely to follow
- Encourages mutual respect
- Protects privacy
- Reduces stress
- Prevents contentious court battle
- Typically reduces divorce-related expenses
A collaborative divorce is often less costly than a traditional divorce. This is due to the fact that because both parties agree to work mutually to reach a settlement and agree to full disclosure of information related to the divorce, the process is often much quicker than a traditional divorce. The result is fewer expenses.
Throughout the process, the attorneys strive to ensure that it remains peaceful and that everyone feels safe. On occasion mediators and other specialists are bought in to help the parties work through particularly difficult issues. If along the way either party decides that they no longer wish to participate in the collaborative process, the attorneys used in the collaborative process must withdraw and each party must secure different counsel to proceed with the divorce through the traditional court process.
Couples who are contemplating divorce should explore options to determine the best route for their particular circumstances. An experienced divorce attorney will be able to educate you on the collaborative process and guide you through the financial, emotional and practical aspects of divorce in the most healthy, non-adversarial manner.