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I am interested in learning more about Collaborative Divorce.  How do I get started?

There are many different doors you can enter the Collaborative Process through.  You can contact any of the professionals on this website to set up a consultation where you discuss your individual situation, gather more information about the process, and can then move forward to decide if Collaborative Divorce is right for you.  If you have questions about your financial portfolio and want an assessment on whether Collaborative Divorce or another approach would be best, then you might reach out to a Financial Neutral.  If you have pressing legal questions about your particular situation, then an Attorney may be the person to contact.  If you have concerns about communication, co-parenting, and overall emotional dynamics, then the Divorce Coach would be a good starting point.

The ETCA most often uses a team approach for this process, where we utilize experts to tend to the legal, financial, and emotional aspects of the divorce.  The Divorce Coach has a multi-faceted role in this process. One of the roles is to screen cases to see if they are appropriate for Collaborative Process, start to assemble the rest of the team (help clients identify attorneys and other neutrals), and organize the process from start to finish.  If you are unsure about whether Collaborative Divorce is right for you, then contacting a Divorce Coach is a great first step.

 

How long does a Collaborative Divorce take?

It is impossible to give a definitive answer to this question.  Each divorce is unique and different and there is no “average divorce.”  The complexity of your situation and the amount and intensity of the conflict between the spouses will determine the length of your Collaborative Process.  However, Collaborative Process can often be more direct and efficient.  By focusing on problem-solving instead of blame and grievances, there is real opportunity to strive for respectful results.  Full disclosure and open communication assures that you cover all the issues in a timely manner.  People having a chance to say what they need to say, and hearing the other party directly also help people function and negotiate more effectively.  And since you settle out of court, there’s no wait for the multiple court dates necessary with litigation.  Experience shows that Collaborative Process cases generally take less time than litigated cases, which statistics show is around 2 years.  In the Collaborative Process, you have much more control in regards to how fast or slow the process moves.

 

How much does a Collaborative Divorce cost?

Again, it is impossible to give a definitive answer to this question.  Every case is different in how long it lasts, the professionals that are hired, and the amount of meetings that occur.  It is not an inexpensive option and utilizing the services of the professionals is an investment in your future and your family’s future.  Generally speaking, statistics show that it the cost is somewhere between mediation and litigated divorce but not more expensive than a litigated divorce.  However, the psychological and emotional costs associated with a litigated divorce are drastically reduced in a Collaborative Divorce, even if the financial cost is similar.

In the Collaborative Process, clients are more in control in regards to how their money is spent.  One benefit of the team approach is streamlining the process and reducing duplicate work. For example, in a traditional divorce both attorneys gather and review financial information.  Or two appraisals are done on a house, one by each party.  In the Collaborative Process, the Financial Neutral gathers all the information and spearheads the aspect of this case so that multiple people are not doing the same work.  And both people agree on one way to appraise the value of the house. These examples show how costs can be reduced in this process.  Because people are agreeing to full financial disclosure and transparency, then there is no need to duplicate work.

 

My spouse does not want a divorce, can we still do a Collaborative Divorce?

Yes. Often times there is one spouse who wants a divorce and the other does not.  They are not in agreement that this is happening.  However, the spouse who is not in agreement regarding the divorce can see that there is an option for him or her in howthe divorce happens.  They may agree that they don’t want to fight, they don’t want a big battle, and they want their kids to be protected during the divorce. They don’t want a long, drawn-out custody battle or court battle and they want privacy.  These are ways they can have control and a voice during this process even if they wished it wasn’t happening.

We have often heard the refrain “I don’t want to collaborate on anything related to a divorce because I don’t want one!”  It is important to remember that you may not agree about the divorce happening, but you can be willing to approach the divorce from a problem-solving perspective to make decisions regarding your life post-divorce – that is the essence of Collaborative Divorce.

 

There is conflict in our relationship, can we still do a Collaborative Divorce?

 Yes. Getting divorced, no matter the process, is a very difficult thing to do.  We expect couples to have conflict, dysfunctional communication, and challenges that need to be worked with during this process.  It is not easy to sit in a room with your spouse and discuss options for separation of finances or parenting schedules.  However, the team is committed to working with these challenges to assist the couple through the process and hopefully help people learn different skills along the way.

For a couple with children, divorce is not an end of a relationship, but a restructuring in order to co-parent healthy children.

In utilizing the team approach, people have the opportunity to work through the emotional pieces, learn new co-parenting boundaries, and new communication skills that will foster amicable post-divorce relationships.  The role of the Divorce Coach is to manage all the conflict and communication.  Often times in litigated divorce, attorneys will knowingly or unknowingly propagate an environment of hostility and distrust which drives a wedge between the spouses.  This does not bode well for people who need to be able to effectively communicate post-divorce for parenting (whether the children are minors or adults) or want to be able to have closure and resolution to the end of their marriage.  We also have Child Specialists who can be added to the team if there are special circumstances or needs regarding your children.

 

How does Collaborative Divorce actually work?

When a couple decides to pursue a Collaborative Divorce, they each hire Collaborative Divorce attorneys. All of the parties agree in writing not to go to court.  Then, you and your spouse meet both privately with your individual attorneys and in face-to-face discussions with all team members present.  There are a series of meetings that occur that to work through the issues that need to be addressed and negotiated.  We follow a roadmap to keep us all on track from start to finish.  Mutual problem-solving by all the parties leads to the final divorce agreement.

How does Collaborative Practice focus on you and your family’s future?

Divorce and termination of domestic partnerships are an ending and a beginning all wrapped up into one process. Collaborative Practice helps you anticipate you and your family’s best interests in moving forward, and include your needs in the discussions.  When you have children affected, Collaborative Practice makes their future the number one priority.  As a more respectful, dignified process, Collaborative Practice helps you and your family make a smoother transition to the next stage of your lives, maintaining relationships and lessening trauma and stress.  Individuals and their children often find they heal more quickly and with fewer lasting effects.

 

Since we are agreeing to stay out of court in the Collaborative Process, does that mean we have all of our legal options?

Yes. You still have access of all of your legal rights and options in the Collaborative Process.  Each spouse has their own individual attorney to provide legal advice and we all work with the law as a backdrop.  The lawyers will ensure that all decisions made are legal and a judge still has to review and approve the final Marital Dissolution Agreement. However, a difference between litigation and Collaborative Law is utilizing position-based negotiation in court vs. interest-based negotiation in Collaborative.  You have the opportunity to let the team know what is important to you and why.  We work with the needs to identify a variety of options for solutions and then you get to decide which options work best for you.

 

I have concerns my spouse will not fully disclose his or her finances.

In a Collaborative Divorce, the parties are assisted by a neutral financial professional. The parties also must contract and agree to full financial transparency. If a party is requested to produce particular records, those records will be provided. In addition, almost all financial records today are stored electronically. Consequently, it is becoming more difficult to hide money without leaving a paper trail. As a result, a competent financial professional can trace any assets to its source. If a person is paid in cash only, the neutral financial professional may have a more difficult task to perform. But it is no more difficult than the process that would occur if the quote “paid in cash spouse” was involved in a litigated divorce. In fact, the financial transparency of a collaborative divorce may make it easier for the financial professional to account for the cash received by the questionable spouse.  There can also be legal repercussions if it is discovered post-divorce that a party did not fully disclose their finances.

 

If the Collaborative Process does not work, do we have to start all over with new attorneys?

It depends.  A central premise in all collaborative divorces is the “exclusionary provision.” This clause requires that if an impasse occurs during the collaborative process, the lawyers involved must withdraw and transition the divorce to trial attorneys. However, statistical analysis of collaborative divorce demonstrates that a termination of the collaborative divorce process rarely happens. 90% of collaborative divorce cases are successful.The exclusionary provision is also important in collaborative divorce cases because it promotes a more confidential and honest exchange of information, options and ideas. It encourages people to push through the difficult parts and work towards resolution so they don’t have to start over.  Even if an impasse occurs, the team will utilize other strategies (e.g., mediation or arbitration) before completely disassembling the team.

Is Collaborative Practice an option for same-sex family law matters?

Yes! A same-sex couple getting divorced no matter where or when their marriage or domestic partnership originally took place can equally benefit from Collaborative Practice. Even unmarried parents whose relationships is breaking up and who need to make decisions about their children such as custody agreements can take advantage of the Collaborative Process. All information about Collaborative Practice applies equally in all relationships. It can be especially advantageous in avoiding “cookie-cutter” solutions applied by the court system originally intended only for traditional forms of marriage.

 

Is Collaborative Process available for civil, workplace, and estate disputes?

Yes.  Anytime you need to preserve key relationships, business operations, sibling and extended family relationships, Civil Collaborative Practice is an effective choice to prevent draining, costly, relationship ruining and time-consuming court battles.

The important difference between Civil Collaborative Practice and conventional litigation is the commitment to reach an agreement without going to court.  The parties maintain control of the process and the decisions instead of relinquishing them to a judge or jury.  Even in the best circumstances, a dispute can strain communication between parties; keeping the lines of communication open is essential for agreement.  Civil Collaborative Practice allows for face-to-face meetings among parties with their respective lawyers, other advisors and neutral experts as needed.  Sessions are designed to produce honest, open exchanges and the expression of priorities and expectations through good faith negotiations, with the goal of reaching a binding agreement that parties’ can rely upon.  More information is available at the Global Collaborative Law Council.

 

 

There are commonly asked questions.  If you have other general or specific questions, please contact us!