When most people think of divorce, they imagine angry spouses fighting it out in a courtroom. But divorce doesn’t have to be a battle. Florida spouses who want to stay out of court have the option of using collaborative divorce. In a collaborative divorce, the two sides work towards a mutually beneficial agreement to resolve issues arising from the marriage.
Orlando Family Team works with divorcing spouses who want an alternative to the traditional divorce approach. Let our family law attorney work with you and help determine whether collaborative divorce is a workable option in your particular situation.
What Is Collaborative Divorce?
Whereas the traditional divorce process is built upon the notion of winners and losers, collaborative divorce helps spouses work together to end their marriage and move on with their lives. The goal is to reach an outcome that is satisfactory for both parties. The spouses must agree to the process in writing and must pledge to avoid court involvement. Transparency between the spouses is key to the collaborative approach.
What Steps Are Involved in a Collaborative Divorce?
The parties should first determine whether they can commit to the collaborative divorce process. Once they do so, they each need an experienced attorney to represent them. The attorney’s role is similar to that in a traditional divorce: protecting his/her client’s interests.
There will be an initial meeting with both spouses and their lawyers present. The two sides will generate a collaborative divorce participation agreement which outlines the major issues that need to be resolved and the documents and other evidence that will be necessary to do so. Both parties must disclose certain information to make the process work.
After this first session, the two sides will have as many subsequent meetings as necessary to resolve issues such as child custody, property and debt distribution, and visitation. Professionals can be brought in to help get the spouses through particularly challenging issues. The lawyers will review matters with their clients so each party understands the legal consequences of potential agreements.
If the process succeeds, an agreement is drafted, signed by the parties, and submitted to the court for approval. But if the process fails, the respective attorneys must withdraw and the couple will have to litigate their differences in court.
What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages?
The successful collaborative divorce will save the parties time, money, and stress. Perhaps most important, it will keep the spouses from having to go to court. Judges have their place for couples who simply cannot work out their differences. But the drawback of the traditional process is that a stranger – the judge – is making decisions about the couple’s property, money, and children. In a collaborative divorce, the parties control their own outcomes.
Lawyers and professionals will still be involved in the collaborative process. But since the parties are working together instead of against one another, attorneys’ fees will tend to be lower. Professionals are also used in a traditional divorce, but typically to tear down the opposing party. With the collaborative process, this team of professionals will help the two spouses build instead of destroy.
Traditional divorces are adversarial, so spouses still fight after the dust is settled. This only facilitates future court involvement, time, money, and stress. The collaborative divorce generates mutual respect between divorcing couples which will pay dividends down the road.
Finally, both parties in the collaborative divorce will agree upfront to voluntarily exchange relevant information that will be necessary to resolve all issues. This saves money and time.
On the other hand, the linchpin of the collaborative process is cooperation. And it only works as long as the parties continue cooperating. If the process falls apart, both spouses will need to retain new attorneys and start all over with a traditional divorce. This will cost more time, money, and stress. For that reason, it is important that both spouses thoughtfully consider their situations before agreeing to a collaborative divorce.
What Are The Differences Between Collaborative Divorce And Mediation?
Mediation is usually a one-time event that can last hours as the mediator attempts to facilitate discussions. Lawyers will be present at the mediation, just as during a collaborative divorce meeting. Although the process is similar to mediation, the collaborative approach recognizes that it will take several meetings to resolve complex and emotionally difficult topics.
Mediation also typically does not involve the use of outside professionals who may be brought in to facilitate negotiations. Since the goal of the collaborative approach is an agreement both sides can live with, these professionals can be a necessary part of the experience.
Who Are the Outside Professionals who may Be Brought into the Collaborative Process?
Every case is different and presents its own challenges to settling. The purpose of involving outside professionals is to help the two sides get over any hurdles standing between them and an amicable divorce. These are some of the individuals who may be called upon during the process:
- Financial experts help the spouses understand how the divorce will impact their money and other financial aspects of their lives.
- Child specialists helps the children work through the difficulties they are facing. They t also help the two parties develop a sensible parenting plan.
- Mental health professionals assist in divorces, even collaborative ones, that are wrought with difficult emotions and trauma. They coach the parties through the process and help them keep the end goal in sight.
Is Collaborative Divorce Right for me?
If divorce is in your future, it’s important to know all the available options. At Orlando Family Team, we understand the challenges that arise when marriages end. We can help you decide if the collaborative divorce process is a good fit for you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.