Collaborative Divorce Process

By choosing a collaborative divorce process, you and your partner agree to stay out of court to resolve your divorce issues.  You employ specially trained professionals to help you settle emotional, financial, and parenting issues surrounding the end of your marriage.  Each partner attempts to pursue his or her values, the individual's highest and best goals for both partners' life and children, and to let go past disputes.  The collaborative process emphasizes full voluntary disclosure, good faith, courtesy, and mutual respect.  The partners govern negotiation content.  The professional team shapes the process, keeps the process safe for all involved, and advises and educates the partners.  If the collaborative process fails and a partner commences litigation, all the collaborative professionals must withdraw.  None can assist either partner in litigating their dissolution; none can be called as litigation witnesses.  The collaborative process may take a shape like that described in our collaborative process chart.  If you and your spouse are seriously considering divorcing by collaborative process, you will want to look carefully through the materials contained at Considering Collaboration, when you have finished reading this page.

If you are trying to imagine how a collaborative divorce might feel, you can read the short story of the Middleton Family Collaborative Divorce.

The participants in a collaborative process are:

1.  You and your spouse

Each of you wants to come out of divorce respecting one another.  Each of you wants the other to be financially solvent five years from now.  Each of you wants both parents to have a vital relationship with your children.  Each of you is willing to be transparent, to provide accurate information, and deal straightforwardly with the issues that arise.  You want to save money, time, and public exposure.  Each wants to reduce relational damage, stress, and senseless conflict.  Each wants to preserve his own and his partner’s dignity.  Each wants to protect your children from emotional harm.  And each wants to leave your family the legacy of a peaceful transition from your marriage to what lies ahead of you.

2.  Collaborative Attorneys

Collaboratively-trained attorneys "un-learn" American legal culture.  Through extensive training, these attorneys learn to listen more and talk less than is usual for lawyers.  They work toward creative solutions, rather than rote application of rules fitted to other (often long-dead) couples.  They create a safe space in which you and your partner can negotiate fairly.  The attorneys work to protect your family from the dangers of your divorce, and to guide you toward the promise of well-considered change.  Each collaborative attorney advises his or her client individually, but, unlike litigation, each nurtures a trusting relationship with your spouse and opposing counsel as well.  Collaborative attorneys defend your interests by emphasizing the well-being of your family system (spouses, children, grandparents, friends, school teachers and classmates, and whoever else matters in your world).

3. Divorce Coach

The partners hire a collaboratively-trained mental health professional, who helps them work through the emotional and communication barriers to effective negotiation.  As a joint expert, the partners conserve resources by working hard on their communication and feelings with the divorce coach, as compared with spending equivalent time with each of their two attorneys.

4.  Certified Divorce Financial Analyst

The partners hire a collaboratively-trained financial specialist with a certified divorce financial analyst accreditation to assist them in identifying what assets and liabilities exist, and to strategize how to reach the partners' financial goals in dissolution.  Property settlement will result in a formal agreement and property transfers, including qualified domestic relations orders (QDROs) and quit claim deeds (QCDs) that may be required to effect the parties’ terms of settlement.  Again, the partners conserve funds as this joint expert performs work that would otherwise fall to each of two attorneys.

5.  Child Specialist

The parties hire a collaboratively-trained mental health professional who interviews their children, discusses parenting issues with the parents, voices the children’s concerns, and helps parents reach consensus on protecting and parenting their children.  This joint expert performs tasks that would otherwise fall to both attorneys, so the child specialist saves the partners money.

6.  Vocational Specialist

If a party has been out of the work force or must change jobs, the parties may hire a collaboratively-trained vocational specialist to help the unemployed or under-employed party to re-enter the work force.  The expense of a vocational specialist pales when compared to the cost, both emotional and financial, of long-term unemployment.

7.  Mortgage Specialist

If the parties’ financial settlement requires access to real estate equity, a collaboratively-trained mortgage specialist can offer alternatives in resolving financing issues.

8.  Others

The parties may require other specialized assistance, such as business valuations, psychiatric referrals, drug or alcohol treatment, individual counseling, or other professional assistance.  Their collaborative attorneys will assist them in identifying such persons and services.