Traditional Divorce vs. Collaborative Law
A divorce can be one of the most stressful and difficult thing you will ever go through in your life. It is a time of upheaval, uncertainty, and change. It is an experience that will see you living a different life moving forward. And you are not the only person who will be touched and effected by this event. Your spouse, your extended family, and especially your children will have their lives altered by this event. In addition, the divorce process can be long, tiring, and expensive. If it becomes necessary to resolve the divorce in court, then you and your spouse surrender control of your assets, finances, and family to the whims of an unknown and unpredictable 3rd party – a judge. This is what happens in a traditional divorce.
Collaborative law offers an alternative to traditional divorce. By definition, Collaborative Law, “enables couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and, on occasion, other family professionals in order to avoid the uncertain outcome of court and to achieve a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children without the underlying threat of litigation.”
Currently, California and Arizona allow couples to pursue the collaborative law model to resolve a divorce.
Now, you may be wondering: What does this mean for me? What makes a collaborative law divorce different from a traditional divorce? Do I still need to go to court with a collaborative law divorce? How do I save money through a collaborative law divorce?
Simply put, collaborative law is a radically different method of pursing a divorce – and it is not for everyone. The decision to separate as a couple is a very personal choice. However, there are instances in which that decision is made by one person. If only one spouse is interested in pursuing a divorce, it may be difficult to separate through collaborative law. By definition, collaborative law requires that the couple to work together, outside the realm of litigation.
When you agree to pursue a separation through collaborative law you can contain conflict. You also agree to specific terms around your divorce or legal separation. Divorce is painful enough without unnecessary conflict.
First, you agree that you will fully disclose all information relative to the case, even if it is not explicitly requested. This is one of the primary differences between collaborative law and traditional divorce. Willfully disclosing information means that you skip the discovery step the occurs in traditional divorces. Doing so saves you a lot of money. It also keeps all the disclosed information between you, your spouse, and the attorneys handling your collaborative law divorce, rather than having it all shared with the public through the discovery process and trial. In a collaborative law divorce, all parties involved must agree to keep all proceedings confidential.
Next, all parties involved agree that any information learned in the collaborative law process will not be used in a later court case unless the information is discovered through some other process than the collaborative law process.
Finally, you must retain the services of an attorney if you choose to pursue the collaborative process. If, for some reason, you abandon the collaborative process, you cannot use your attorney’s services in later court proceedings.
Collaborative law divorces help you avoid the combativeness that prone to arise during the traditional divorce process. Often, this combativeness can be instigated by the attorneys who represent you or your spouse. Battling tooth and nail in court over every asset will often end up costing you more in legal fees than you will ever manage to recoup through a judge’s decision.
In an ideal world, a world in which you and your spouse say “I want to stay out of court. I want to stay in control of my relationships. I do not want a judge to decide my case. I want collaborative law because it will save me time, money, and anguish,” it is possible to resolve your separation in just over 60 days. This will not be true of all separations.
If you have decided that it is indeed time for divorce, you first step should be to consult with a number of experienced attorneys who handle just such matters. Ask them, in person, about the differences between traditional divorce and collaborative law divorce. Then, when equipped with all the information, come to a decision that is best for you and your family.