What is a Collaborative Divorce?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, based on data from 44 states in the United States, the divorce rate in the country for 2011 was 3.6 per for every 1,000 persons. This sad fact brings home the necessity of causing as little pain as possible while going through the divorce procedure. This is where collaborative divorce can provide the kindest possible alternative for couples who no longer find it possible to live as husband and wife.
History of Collaborative Divorce
A good number of articles on collaborative law credit Stuart “Stu” Webb with the conceptualization of collaborative divorce. Disillusioned by the hostile and adversarial direction of most divorces, the family law attorney resolved to find a way to help couples dissolve their marriage while still maintaining their parental relationship.
Today there are more than 20,000 lawyers practicing collaborative law, and practitioners are now able to refer to the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA) for a uniform, professional application of the law.
Features of Collaborative Divorce
Collaborative divorce has some features that distinguish it from other types of divorce. While many are under the impression that it is identical to divorce mediation, collaborative divorce is qualitatively and procedurally a different process.
• Couples who choose to undergo collaborative divorce treat the divorce as a course of action they will undertake together. While they are by no means neutral, they commit to crafting a negotiated settlement in good faith.
• When a couple agrees to undergo a collaborative divorce, they commit to keeping the process out of the courtroom.
• The couple who is about to terminate their marriage define the issues that they must resolve and work on together.
• They identify the collaborative attorneys they will be working with, and they agree to suspend court intervention.
The Collaborative Divorce Process
The commitment to being fair, respectful, and reasonable throughout the process may or may not be written into the couple’s contract, but it is nevertheless an essential ingredient in collaborative divorce.
As the parties go through the divorce process, they will naturally come to discussions about assets and liabilities. A collaborative divorce is possible only when both parties are transparent about their finances; this alternative option excludes “discovery”, a legal process through which all legal means can be used to unearth any assets that the other party may be hiding.
Professionals such as accountants, child custody experts, and psychologists, are often involved in collaborative divorce as the spouses discuss various aspects of their lives as a family. However, any information gathered by these experts cannot be used in court if the spouses decide to litigate later.
During the process, the collaborative lawyers are allowed to give advice to their clients– with each of the spouses having their own counsel. If the spouses reach an agreement, they can draw up a contract which a judge can sign. When that is done, the spouses end up with a simple, uncontested divorce without the usual hearings.
Making Collaborative Divorce Work
Collaborative divorce is an option only when both parties are determined and able to work towards a win-win solution. It is not appropriate for couples who are adversarial and who want to get the better end of the deal, and neither is it an acceptable route for people who want revenge or are determined to hide assets from the other party.
To make collaborative divorce work, a couple must be willing to look forward, and above all things, they must want to keep family and parental relations intact – even when they no longer live together.