Collaborative law is often the best alternative for spouses who have chosen to end their marriage without acrimony on either side. If you and your future ex-spouse are ready, willing and able to face each other and talk through even the most difficult issues, such as child custody and division of marital assets, then this may be the right path for you. Before you make a final determination, it is helpful to know what to expect from the process.
Steps of a collaborative divorce
The following are the steps taken during a typical collaborative divorce. Some variation may be involved depending on the specific issues you need to address, so please accept the following as a general guideline:
- First, each spouse hires attorneys to represent him or her during the collaborative proceeding
- Meetings are scheduled, the number of which depends upon how many issues you and your spouse have to discuss, how easily you work together to come up with resolutions and how quickly decisions are made
- Attorneys and spouses meet as scheduled, identify issues that need to be decided and talk them through
- Lawyers should help guide the discussion and keep everyone on topic, avoiding a descent into fruitless or irrelevant arguments
- If it is decided that experts in the fields of dispute, such as finances or the best interests of children, are needed, your attorneys will bring them into the meetings
- Once all issues are resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the spouses, the agreement is written up and presented to the court, where it is usually approved as the final dissolution agreement
- If an agreement cannot be reached on one or more issues, or one of the spouses decides to withdraw, then the attorneys withdraw and new lawyers must be secured to take the divorce through the traditional court
While no divorce can be called “easy,” a collaborative divorce can ease the process, so long as both parties are willing to be honest and reasonable in their negotiations. Even during this collaboration, you need an attorney who is staunchly on your side and makes sure your rights are promoted and protected throughout the proceedings. And, of course experience and training in collaborative divorce is a must.
Jacqueline Newman joined Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein LLP in 1998 and is now the managing partner of the firm. Ms. Newman’s practice consists of litigation, collaborative law and mediation. She specializes in complex high net worth matrimonial cases and also in negotiating prenuptial agreements. Read more about Jacqueline Newman.