Not all divorces have to be ugly, sometimes you and your partner just grow apart and possibly don’t share the same goals or dreams any longer. Perhaps spending every waking moment together over the last year or so has brought this to light. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented, caused, and revealed challenges for many families. Travel restrictions, virtual schooling, stay-at-home orders, and COVID-19-related precautions have tried the resources and patience of many. Individuals may be exploring options for amicably dissolving their marriages.
The collaborative law process is one form of alternative dispute resolution available to individuals seeking to obtain a settlement agreement and to avoid court. The process involves each party hiring an attorney who has been trained and certified as a collaborative law practitioner. Other experts, as applicable, join the “team,” such as a certified divorce coach, a child development expert, an accountant, and a financial advisor. The group agrees to share all material information and to reach an agreement as to all outstanding issues without the need for litigation.
A collaborative approach may have advantages to other forms of alternative dispute resolution – such as mediation – or to litigation. Input from the other professionals may assist the parties by providing expertise relating to their financial needs and/or the developmental needs of their children. If successful, a collaborative divorce could be achieved more quickly than proceeding through the court system.
There are also potential downsides to a collaborative approach, which should be considered. If the process is unsuccessful, the involved attorneys are disqualified from continued representation of either spouse. Also, the collaborative process can be very costly, in that the parties must compensate the other professionals involved – financial and mental health professionals – in addition to their attorneys. If the parties are not able to reach a comprehensive agreement, they may end up in a litigation situation, or in traditional mediation, having already expended substantial financial and emotional resources while working through the collaborative process.
A licensed attorney can assist individuals in weighing the various options available for ending their marriages, based on that individual’s goals.