The Truth About Collaborative Divorce
By Wendy M. Rosen, Esq.
A collaborative divorce is less expensive, more efficient and leads to less anxiety than a litigated divorce. A collaborative divorce often leads to results that both parties believe are “more fair” than if their case was decided by a judge. So, why don’t people try collaborative divorce? The answer is simple: Most just don’t know it exists or if they do, they do not know what a collaborative divorce is.
In a traditional divorce, husbands and wives take sides, hire their own team of experts (for example, accountants or forensic psychologists) and generally fight to “win.” The opposing parties in the dispute may feel intimidation, fear, and a sense of powerlessness. Often parties feel pressured to settle. That pressure can result from the fact that parties in a litigated divorce often have no control over the court’s docket. A feeling of powerlessness might result from the opposing spouse being controlling, secretive, and deceptive and trying to hide information. Discovery and hearings are often needed prior to settlement and if the parties don’t settle before the date set for trial, a lot of time can be needed to prepare for trial, which can lead to substantial counsel fees. In a divorce trial, parties are forced to provide testimony and be subject to cross-examination. It is a very stressful process. Also, the results of a litigated divorce are unpredictable as a third party, the trial judge, makes the decisions about the parties’ children and finances. Further, the process can take months, if not years, given the shortage of the judges and overflow of cases.
The definition of “collaborate” is to work with one another to cooperate. In a collaborative divorce, the parties will meet, with the assistance of their attorneys, to work out the details of their divorce on their own time line and without the intervention of the court. The win-lose mentality of litigating in court is dispensed with, in favor of a collaborative team working with each other, not against each other, to craft a mutually beneficial solution. The parties address the divorce in a way that meets both parties’ needs and the needs of their children. Respect of both parties is promoted enabling both spouses to maintain control over the divorce process.
In a collaborative divorce, each party selects an attorney and commits to working outside of the court system to develop a settlement. As both parties agree not to go to court, the process itself can be more open and less adversarial. While both parties have their own attorneys, the attorneys are used in a much more focused way in their capacity as problem solvers and knowledgeable divorce professionals. The collaborative divorce professionals are not limited to attorneys. Other team members can include mental health professionals, child specialists, divorce coaches, accountants, financial planners and mortgage brokers. All of them have the goal to look for ways to advance both parties’ interests in a mutually beneficial way.
The benefits of a collaborative divorce include: giving children a voice in the process; keeping assets and personal issues private; improving communication between the parties; promoting respect and healthier long term communications; and preserving more of the family’s finances for the future.
This post illustrates some, but not all, of the benefits and issues associated with collaborative divorces. If you have any questions on this, or other issues pertaining to divorce, please call Wendy M. Rosen, Esq. at (609) 730-3850 to schedule an appointment.