When you hear the word “divorce,” you probably have an image of what the process will be like. Perhaps you assume that each party will hire an attorney; take a polarized negotiation position; and repeatedly go to court to fight over issues of property division, custody, and spousal support. Perhaps you fear that after years of failed negotiation attempts, a judge who does not know you, your children, or your family will decide issues that affect every aspect of your life. Perhaps you believe that litigation is the only method through which you can get what you want or are entitled to in a divorce. That belief is not true. There is another process: collaborative law.
What is collaborative law? Collaborative law is a dispute resolution process through which spouses can obtain a divorce and settle all related issues cooperatively.
Do I still retain an attorney in the collaborative law practice? Yes. Each spouse retains a collaborative law attorney to represent him or her. However, in addition to the attorneys, the spouses also retain additional professionals who will act as an interdisciplinary team to assist them in facilitating the divorce process.
Who is on the “team”? The parties may hire a mental health professional to act as a “coach.” The collaborative coach is not the parties’ therapist. Rather, the coach uses his or her professional training to assist the parties in managing their emotional or psychological issues that might impede the divorce process. The coach will facilitate communication and dialogue between the parties and other team members. If the parties have children, they may hire a child specialist, a mental health professional with specific training in working with children and families with children. The child specialist may assist the parties in creating a joint parenting agreement that works for all parties involved. The parties may also hire a neutral financial specialist, who assists the parties in gathering, understanding and analyzing financial information. The financial specialist may explain to the parties what their estate is worth and provide different options on how the estate can be divided.