How Collaborative Divorce Works
Collaborative Divorce works through a series of meetings between you, your spouse, and your Collaborative Team. These meetings are held in private offices – not in public court rooms!
During the meetings, you and your spouse will gather information, identify your goals and concerns, and negotiate a settlement that works for both of you.
Here is an overview of how Collaborative Divorce works.
Step 1 – Getting Started
You and your spouse will each retain your own lawyer who has been specially trained in collaborative law (collaborative divorce).
Your Collaborative Divorce lawyers will talk to you in depth about the Collaborative Divorce Process. Each of them will answer your questions and guide you through your Collaborative Divorce. Your lawyers will also prepare you for your Collaborative meetings.
Step 2 – Making a commitment
During your first Collaborative meeting, you, your spouse, and your lawyers, will all sign an agreement known as a “Participation Agreement.” In that agreement you commit to using the Collaborative Process to resolve your divorce issues. You and your spouse also agree not to go to court (except to finalize your divorce.)
If either of you does go to court, then both of your divorce attorneys, and the rest of your Collaborative team, will be disqualified from continuing in your case. You will each have to hire new lawyers to represent you in your divorce.
In Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse agree to work together respectfully, honestly, and in good faith to resolve your issues. You agree to do your best to reach agreements that benefit both of you, and your children.
You agree to voluntarily provide your spouse and the Collaborative Team with all relevant information needed in your divorce. You also agree that you will voluntarily produce all financial documents that you or the team requires.
Believe it or not, this simple agreement goes a long way in helping the process go smoothly.
Step 3 – Building the team
Divorce affects many different areas of your life. Collaborative Divorce gives you the support you need to handle the most important areas of your divorce more productively. That’s why Collaborative Divorce takes a team approach.
In addition to your Collaborative attorneys, your Collaborative Team may include a financial neutral, one or two divorce coaches, and perhaps a child specialist. These specially trained divorce professionals will help you keep your divorce moving forward efficiently and effectively.
(Learn more about the role of each type of professional: Attorney, Child Specialist, Divorce Coach, Financial Specialist.)
Step 4 – Negotiating a settlement
You and your spouse, with the help of your Collaborative Team, will resolve all of your divorce issues in a series of private meetings. While not all team members will be present for all meetings, you will never be left to negotiate your issues alone. You will always have support.
In your meetings you will negotiate your parenting responsibilities. You will decide how to divide your assets and debts. You will also determine whether support is needed and, if so, the amount and duration of support.
During your Collaborative meetings, everyone strives to remain civil and respectful to one another. Your divorce coach will help you and your spouse refrain from arguing, blaming, rehashing old hurts. During most meetings, each of your attorneys will also be there to advise you on any legal issues. They will help guide the negotiations in a productive manner.
Step 5 – Moving forward
Once you and your spouse reach an agreement, your attorneys will write the terms of your agreements into legally-binding documents. They will then file the case in court and schedule your final hearing. You, your spouse, and your attorneys, will go to court on the appointed day and finalize your divorce in court.
What is so impressive with the Collaborative Process compared to the traditional litigation divorce process, is that the collaborative professionals are NOT just “out” for their client or themselves – each and every one of the collaborative professionals (attorneys, child specialist, financial specialist, and coach) really want to accomplish a fair and reasonable compromise so that both parties are satisfied with the end result, in a fairly short time period.—Peter P., DuPage County, Illinois