Is Collaborative Divorce Right For You?

A typical divorce can leave both partners out-of-pocket. Experts estimate that the average cost of a divorce in the United States is between $15,000 and $30,000, which is a sobering thought when you consider the average cost of the wedding is under $28,000. Many couples now turn to collaborative divorce to avoid some of the costs that a case can incur, but you may not fully understand what this process entails. Learn more about the collaborative divorce process, and find out if this method is a good choice for you.

How does the collaborative process work?

The collaborative divorce process (sometimes called collaborative law) is a way to agree on a settlement with minimal legal intervention. You and your spouse each hire experienced collaborative attorneys, who meet with you to negotiate the final settlement. As part of the process, the four parties meet collectively, as well as on a 1:1 client/attorney basis.

In some cases, a collaborative divorce can also involve other professionals and specialists. For example, you may decide to hire an independent accountant to agree on mutually acceptable financial terms. If you have children, you may also decide to pay a child custody specialist to help you work out the best arrangement. The aim of these discussions is to help both parties reach an amicable solution without asking a court to rule. 

Can collaborative law save money?

Collaborative divorce can save both parties significant sums of money. The approach means that all discussions take place outside a court room, eliminating status court appearances where a judge often simply orders another court date.

Collaboration helps avoid the costs of depositions, subpoenas, and other expensive court costs. You can also avoid unnecessary professional fees because you and your spouse use the same experts for advice. The average cost of a collaborative divorce is roughly $7,500.

What agreements do you have to make?

Collaborative divorce is a voluntary process, and your spouse cannot force you to follow this path. If you do agree to work in this way, you will need to sign an agreement, in which you state certain things, such as:

  • You will openly and honestly disclose all relevant information. If you spot a mistake, you will highlight and correct it.
  • You will treat all participants (including your spouse) with respect.
  • You will act in a way that shields your children from negativity or stress.
  • You will share experts with your spouse, and collaborate in all activities.
  • You will not threaten court action. If the process breaks down and you decide to go to court, the collaboration lawyers will withdraw from the activity.

Who does the collaborative process work best for?

Collaborative divorce doesn't suit everyone. For example, if your separation is very hostile, or involves domestic abuse, you'll almost certainly need a more formal legal process. That aside, the process is effective for couples who can manage their emotions, want to move on amicably, and have no reason to bear a grudge.

The collaborative process is also a good solution for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples. Some states do not legally allow marriage or divorce for these people, so a collaborative agreement is often a good way to reach a legally enforceable solution.

What other benefits are there in the process?

Collaborative divorce can speed up the end-to-end process because you and your spouse have more control over timing. You don't need to wait for court dates or judgements, and you can agree to hold meetings as often as you like. The amicable nature of the process also means that you're less likely to delay decisions and argue over a particular outcome.

The collaborative process doesn't focus solely on the legal implications of your divorce. For example, custody of a pet or possession of a family heirloom is often a struggle during separation because you have a strong emotional attachment, but a standard divorce may overlook this to focus on financial value. As such, this type of divorce can help you settle in a way that supports your feelings and emotions, and not just your bank balance.

Collaborative divorce is an increasingly popular alternative to a standard settlement. If you want to find out more about the process, contact an experienced collaborative divorce attorney in your area.