Collaborative divorce is a cooperative team approach to divorce that is gaining followers among the growing number of people who are seeking a more compassionate, less divisive alternative to the traditional adversarial approach to divorce. Rather than opposing each other in a courtroom where a judge determines how property and financial assets will be divided, who gets custody of the children and how much time the children will spend with each parent; collaborative divorce occurs outside the courtroom and allows divorcing spouses to make their own decisions about the critical issues that will impact their lives and the lives of their children.
In collaborative divorce each spouse is represented by an attorney of his/her own choosing. Both the couple and their attorneys make a contracted commitment to settle their issues outside the court system. If an amicable settlement cannot be reached, the attorneys must resign and are prohibited from representing their clients in any ensuing litigation. Upon dissolution of the collaborative divorce agreement, the couple is free to initiate court proceedings with different attorneys.
The emphasis in a collaborative divorce, however, is on achieving a fair and reasonable settlement that meets the needs of both spouses and any children without the need for court intervention. To assist the couple in developing the effective communication, negotiation and self-management skills that will enable them to reach an amiable agreement and maintain a courteous and respectful relationship after the divorce, each spouse is usually assisted by a divorce coach. Other members of the collaborative divorce team often include a financial adviser and, if the couple has children, a child specialist to represent the children’s needs. A case manager, often one of the coaches, may also be designated to keep all parties informed and coordinate meeting schedules.
By choosing collaborative divorce, couples lay the groundwork for a cooperative and respectful relationship after divorce to the benefit of the entire family.