Word to the Wise
Divorce litigation is rarely pleasant. It’s expensive, emotionally difficult and sometimes downright nasty. For those looking for an alternative to traditional litigation, “collaborative divorce” is a relatively new way to resolve disputes without going to court.
How It Works
When couples pursue collaborative divorce, each spouse hires his or her own collaborative divorce lawyer — a legal professional who is specially trained in collaborative practice. You may also add other professional advisors to the team, including financial advisors and child welfare specialists.
Collaborative divorce is a non-adversarial approach. All parties, including the spouses and their attorneys, agree — in writing — not to go to court.
According to the International Society of Collaborative Professionals, the tenets of collaborative divorce include:
• Negotiating a mutually acceptable settlement without court involvement.
• Maintaining open communication and information sharing.
• Creating shared solutions acknowledging the higher priorities of all parties.
Why It Works
Traditional divorces rarely end well. Even if spouses start out with the idea of having a “friendly” divorce, bad feelings, intense emotions and a lengthy litigation process can create long-lasting animosity. Spouses say things to hurt each other, children become painfully aware of their parents’ shortcomings or bad behavior, and generally the partnership ends in a battle.
Also, in traditional divorce, the courts become involved in matters that they were not really designed to handle. Rarely do families benefit from having a court decide the fate of their assets, parenting or child custody issues. Plus, court cases are public matters, and ugly details of failed marriages often find their way out of the courtroom and into the community.
In contrast, a collaborative divorce can minimize hostility and encourage cooperation. The spouses control the timetable and the decision-making process, and communicate directly with each other rather than through their lawyers.
The professionals involved are trained in negotiation and ensure productive discussion. They try to foster agreement, not disagreement, blame or shame. And because the parties are focused on a mutually agreeable solution, collaborative divorce tends to go faster than traditional divorce. Less time means less money spent on professional services, and more money to divide between the partners.
One way to think of it is that collaborative divorce focuses on the future and not on the past.
Making collaborative divorce work takes commitment from all parties. In fact, the collaborative divorce contract stipulates that if the process doesn’t work and the parties can’t agree to a mutually acceptable settlement, the spouses must start over with an entirely new team.
Obviously, collaborative divorce isn’t for everybody. Some in the field say it requires a certain amount of “maturity” on behalf of the spouses because the process has no room for ill will or revenge. It also requires professionals and legal advisors trained in collaborative practice.
However, Canada is home to many collaborative practice specialists, in divorce as well as in civil and commercial arenas. As people tire of costly court battles, collaborative practice will likely expand in all areas.
If you are interested in learning more about collaborative divorce, please contact our firm or visit http://www.collaborativepractice.com/.