What is Collaborative Divorce and is it Right For Me?
by Leon Bennett, Family Law Attorney
Law Offices of Leon F. Bennett, Woodland Hills, California
The ugly truth: in today’s society, roughly half of all marriages end in divorce. Unfortunately for those involved, the traditional divorce process (litigation) can become an extremely expensive and bitter battleground where all too often people become blind to what is truly important. This is where the Collaborative approach to divorce can be highly beneficial.
Collaborative Divorce is known as the “no court” approach to ending a marriage. By choosing collaboration, clients allow attorneys to assist them in resolving conflict by using cooperative techniques and respectful negotiation rather than adversarial strategies and costly litigation. Collaboration is specifically aimed at minimizing the hurt and anger that has become prevalent in today’s family courts.
This alternative form of dispute resolution works by having both parties represented by attorneys. Additional experts are employed to help resolve any disagreements that occur along the way. These experts differ depending on each given situation but typically include two divorce coaches, one neutral financial analyst, and one child specialist (if there are minor children of the marriage). Statistics show the Collaborative approach is less expensive than having two attorneys fight it out in court. Most important, you and your former spouse will truly control the outcome instead of leaving your fate in the hands of a judge.
How does the Collaborative process actually work? When a couple chooses to go down the collaborative route, they enter into a written agreement not to go to court. This is known as a “Participation Agreement.” As part of this agreement, if a peaceful settlement is not reached the lawyers will withdraw from the process and will not participate in any ensuing litigation.
Certain commitments are included to maintain the core values of the collaborative philosophy.
- “All communications during the process will be constructive and fair, and will not take advantage of any errors made by the other party”
- “The parties will act in their children’s best interests to promote the relationships between the children and the parties and to minimize any emotional damage to the children as a result of the separation”
These commitments establish the central message of the collaborative approach and are put in place to help ensure neither side loses sight of what is truly important, respecting each other and providing the best possible future for any children in the family.
Aided by collaborative trained professionals, parties will negotiate peacefully and come to terms on issues including child custody/child support, spousal support, division of property, and -other important aspects of dissolving a marriage. After all the necessary areas of the relationship are addressed, the parties will enter into a settlement agreement and the divorce will become finalized.
It is important to note that the collaborative approach may not be for everyone. Both sides must be willing to maintain open and constructive communication in order for the process to be effective and sometimes this is just not possible. However, in cases where collaboration has been employed, even reluctantly, settlement often comes much sooner and is far less expensive.
Divorce is an extremely difficult time in anyone’s life. The ramifications of the decisions made throughout the process will affect each spouse for the rest of their lives. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of ending your marriage, it is crucial that you weigh all of your options before choosing which path to take.
The Collaborative Approach to divorce is the latest development in the family law field and it is gaining much popularity. By using this approach, participants can settle their issues more quickly and do so at a fraction of the traditional litigation cost.
Before you decide to take your divorce to court and litigate, it would be foolish not to ask yourself: “Is the Collaborative Law approach right for me?”
Family Divorce Solutions members can answer your questions about Collaborative Divorce. Call us at 818- 933-4504, or contact us at this link.