Collaborative divorce law is a relatively new, multi-disciplinary approach designed to minimize conflict while enabling divorcing couples to find a way to resolve their differences on all relevant issues. The process places a deep emphasis on negotiation and working together.
You may be worried that you and your spouse will be unable to reach an agreement. Collaborative attorneys have been trained to effectively work with couples that have considerable conflict. You will not be alone. Your attorney will be there with you to ensure your needs are addressed, and to facilitate negotiations with your spouse.
First, you and your spouse will meet with your respective collaborative attorneys to discuss your individual needs and concerns. Then, everyone agrees that they will all work toward an effective solution for both spouses. You, your spouse, and both attorneys then meet in four-way sessions to reach a settlement without involving the court. Every issue, including property division, custody, and support, will be put “on the table” in these sessions.
At the beginning of the process, you, your spouse, and both attorneys will sign a Participation Agreement. The agreement requires both parties to:
- exchange complete financial information so that each spouse can make well-informed decisions;
- maintain absolute confidentiality during the process, so that each spouse can feel free to express his or her needs and concerns;
- reach a written agreement on all issues and concerns outside of contested court proceedings,
- avoid threats of litigation or adversarial procedures; and authorize the attorneys to use the written agreement to obtain a final court decree.
In addition, instead of using only attorneys for this process, you will have access to a team of professionals, each specializing in a different field of expertise. As needed, your Collaborative Team may include mental health professionals to coach you and your spouse, a child specialist to give your children a voice in the process, and a financial specialist (such as a qualified financial specialist or certified divorce financial analyst) to help both you and your spouse analyze the impact of your financial decisions.
This Collaborative Team approach is successful, because it uniquely lays a solid foundation for a future parenting partnership between you and your spouse, and between both parents and the children. It creates an atmosphere of hope for your whole family: that your future together will be trouble-free and secure, even if the family has been restructured into two homes.
All the professionals involved – the attorneys, the mental health professionals, and the financial specialists – have special training to help contain the cost of the divorce process, by using limited family funds in the most effective way possible. You can use the financial specialist as a neutral to work on budgeting and property distribution, and a child specialist as a neutral to work on parenting issues. The attorneys are always available for consultation as problem areas are addressed.
During this process, you will benefit from the skills, advice, and support of attorneys and other helping professionals while striving to work things out in a positive, future-focused manner. Working together enables you to dissolve the marriage in a way that addresses everyone’s legal, financial, and emotional needs within the resources of the family. When a settlement is reached, the collaborative attorneys will file the appropriate paperwork required by the court to complete your divorce.
Lori Becker is the president and managing partner of Becker Legal P.C. in Bloomfield, Michigan. Lori is a mediator, divorce attorney with specialized training in the collaborative divorce method. She can be reached at (248) 885-8660, firstname.lastname@example.org.