Family Law Firm of the Year (USA) - awarded by Lawyer Monthly

Thanks for printing!  Don't forget to come back to Meriwether & Tharp, LLC for fresh articles!

Collaborative Divorce Attorneys

What is collaborative divorce?

Unlike the traditional approach to divorce, where both parties retain counsel, engage in litigation and ultimately resolve the divorce matter at trial, the goal of collaborative divorce is for both parties to reach a mutually beneficial settlement agreement without going to court. As the name suggests, collaborative divorce involves both spouses working together to reach an agreement instead of operating as adversaries. During the collaborative divorce process, each spouse is represented by an attorney dedicated to resolving the divorce matter collaboratively, or without litigation. Additionally, the couple is also supported by a neutral team of professionals, such as financial advisors, therapists, mediators, and child specialists, who help the couple reach an agreement that not only dissolves the marriage but also serves the best interests of both parties and their children.

Collaborative divorce involves both spouses working together to reach an agreement instead of operating as adversaries.

The collaborative divorce process is generally initiated prior to filing a Petition for Divorce with the court. Only once the couple reaches an agreement will the divorce action be filed. Because the parties have already reached an agreement prior to filing the divorce action, there is no need for a divorce trial with collaborative divorce. The parties’ attorneys can simply petition the court to adopt the couple’s settlement agreement into the court’s Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce.

What are the advantages of collaborative divorce?

Similar to uncontested divorce actions, or divorce actions resolved through mediation, the primary benefit to collaborative divorce is that the outcome of the divorce process is controlled by the parties, not a judge or jury. Collaborative divorce generally involves a series of meetings between the parties, represented by counsel, and the couple’s collaborative divorce team. During these meetings, each issue of the divorce, including child custody, child support, alimony, and property division, is discussed and resolved by the parties through negotiation and compromise. This process insures both parties are able to fully express their opinions concerning the issues and effect the final terms of settlement.

Other advantages of collaborative divorce include the reduction or elimination of the stress normally associated with the divorce process and lower divorce costs. The stress and anxiety normally associated with divorce is diminished by collaborative divorce because during the process, the parties are working together, not against each other, and everything is put on the table for discussion so neither party is left to wonder if the other party is withholding information. The collaborative process may also lower the cost of divorce by reducing the time it takes to ultimately conclude the divorce. Although both parties will still be responsible for attorney’s fees, court costs and the fees associated with the team of professionals enlisted to help with the process, because the time of each professional will be devoted to reaching an agreement, not legal wrangling, the collaborative divorce process is often more efficient, and thus more cost effective, than traditional divorce litigation.

Collaborative divorce attorneys

Even though collaborative divorce involves direct negotiation between both parties to facilitate a mutually agreeable settlement of the divorce, attorneys are still integral to the process. During the divorce process, collaborative divorce attorneys act more as legal counselors and advisors instead of zealous advocates. Generally, the role of collaborative attorneys during the collaborative divorce process includes: advising clients of the applicable law, focusing clients attention on important issues, assuring clients rights are protected and that clients responsibilities are fulfilled, promoting honesty and mutual respect between the parties, facilitating communications between the parties and with the other engaged professionals, identifying and addressing important issues, and analyzing the consequence of various legal alternatives. Additionally, those considering the collaborative divorce process or consulting with a collaborative divorce attorney should note that collaborative divorce attorneys commonly require their clients to sign a non-participation agreement stating that if the collaborative process is unsuccessful, the attorney will not participate in or represent the client in a litigated divorce.

  Practice Pointer - Is Collaborative Divorce Right for Me?

Collaborative divorce attorneys and the collaborative divorce process are most suitable for individuals or couples who are willing to work in good faith toward an agreement before initiating the legal divorce process and without resorting to litigation. Divorce matters that are especially contentious or matters where there is a history of domestic violence or abuse are not generally suitable for the collaborative divorce process.