Collaborative divorce is a process that brings together lawyers, financial experts and communication experts (i.e., mental health experts, sometimes referred to as Divorce Coaches, and Child Specialists) in an effort to help couples divorce in a manner that is humane, civil and cost-effective. It focuses on the well-being of the entire family, not “winning” and “losing.”
You do not go to Court, as you would in a traditional, litigated divorce action. Instead, you will have private, informal meetings with your spouse and the attorneys in an effort resolve the issues one at a time, at your own pace. The parties set the time frame with how often they want to meet. No court deadlines, discovery, depositions, motions, or threats of litigation. The parties control the negotiations with the guidance of their attorneys and assistance of divorce coaches, financial experts and child specialists where necessary.
What is the role of a Divorce Coach?
Divorce coaches are psychologists or LCSW therapists who use their skills in dealing with emotional situations to help the parties and counsel facilitate communication. They do not provide therapy. Divorce coaches: 1) help clients identify and articulate experiences; 2) offer information regarding marital transitions to alleviate anxiety and uncertainty; and 3) help the clients understand the needs of the children and help create an appropriate parenting plan.
What is the role of a Child Specialist?
Child specialists are members of the same profession as divorce coaches. As with divorce coaches, they do not provide therapy. Child specialists: 1) help identify what the children are experiencing; 2) give the children “a voice” in the process; and 3) provide feedback to the parents and other collaborative professionals on the well being of the children (i.e., sibling dynamics, parent behaviors, thoughts and emotions, etc.)
What is the role of the Financial Expert?
Financial experts help with the equitable distribution of marital assets. They will: 1) review all financial documents, such as tax returns, investments, property appraisals, 401(k)s, pensions, anticipated living expenses, college costs, etc.; 2) evaluate tax implications relative to transferring assets; and 3) create various distribution options for clients based on an analysis of short and long term goals. The financial expert works with an eye toward the future well being of the entire family.
What are some Advantages over Litigation?
Faster, saner, and more affordable. No protracted litigation. Parties go at their own pace. Parties craft their own settlement agreement, including custody, visitation and parenting time, rather than have terms dictated by a Judge.
What are the Final Steps in the Process?
Upon final agreement of all terms, whether that takes a few weeks or a few months, the lawyers will draft the final divorce documents to be filed in Court. Since it will be filed as an “uncontested divorce” with the Property Settlement Agreement already prepared, a final hearing date will be set right away. The parties will appear in Court only once to confirm, in sum, that they knowingly and willingly negotiated and entered into the Property Settlement Agreement. Parties receive the final order granting their divorce at the conclusion of that very brief hearing before the Judge.
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