What is Collaborative Divorce?
I think I want to use the Collaborative process; how do I get started?
If you are interested in Collaborative Law, the first step is to reach out to a Collaborative professional to discuss the process further. Many people first discover Collaborative Law as an option when speaking to their lawyer. If your spouse hasn’t met with a lawyer yet, your Collaborative lawyer can provide information about Collaborative Law and other Collaborative professionals in your community.
If both of you agree on Collaborative Law, the next step is getting your team in place. You will each need a Collaborative divorce lawyer. Then, each of you will meet with a divorce coach who will further discuss the process with you and do an intake meeting. After this, you will meet with any other professionals you and your former spouse want to involve, which often includes a financial specialist and a child specialist.
Once your team is in place, everyone will meet and sign what is called a “Participation Agreement.” This agreement outlines what to expect in the process, and your commitment to an out-of-court process. You will then put together a list of issues you would like to work out and craft a plan of how to move forward. You will have some meetings with the whole team, and other meetings with just your divorce coach, financial specialist, or child specialist. Everything agreed to will be documented in writing and incorporated into your final agreement.
Learn more about why people are choosing Collaborative Divorce here: https://vimeo.com/504979120/416d8e1be3
Who is on the Collaborative team?
The professionals involved on each team can vary from case to case but will always include a Collaborative lawyer for each party and at least one divorce coach. Many families also choose to have a financial specialist work with them to sort out their finances. Using a financial specialist not only provides a higher level of service, but it’s also typically much more cost-effective as well. Families with children, even adult children, can benefit from using a child specialist. The child specialist meets with the child and provides information to the parents on the child’s needs and wishes and offers insight into age-appropriate parenting plans.
How long does it take?
The length of the Collaborative process depends on factors such as the complexity of your case, the time you and your former spouse wish to allocate to the process, and how organized you are. While the process will be much quicker than the court process, for most folks it still takes at least six months. Having said that, quicker doesn’t mean better, and for some families going a bit slower can actually produce better long-term results.
How much does it cost?
It varies. While it will typically cost far less than a trial, it can still be a significant financial investment for your family. At Duncan Allen Law LLP we offer both hourly rates as well as flat fee packages.
A key difference between litigation and Collaborative Law – and where you really see tremendous value for dollars spent – is that you are paying specialized professionals to help with each issue, rather than paying a general family lawyer to help you with everything. It’s kind of like swapping out your summer tires for winter tires each year — you need to buy two sets of tires, but they last longer and do a better job. With a Collaborative divorce, you pay your financial specialist to help you work out your financial settlement, and your divorce coach and child specialist to help you put your parenting plan together. Your lawyer then does what they do best: provide you with legal advice. Using this specialist-based approach can save you money and provide you with a much higher caliber of service.
In addition, in the Collaborative process you are not paying a lawyer to follow all the mandatory formal rules and procedures when going through the litigation process. Instead, you can keep things informal and focused on resolution.
What is the difference between the collaborative process and mediation?
In mediation, you hire a neutral third party to help you and your former spouse reach an agreement. Should you not reach an agreement, each of you are able to proceed to court with your same lawyers. In Collaborative Law, everyone agrees that court is off the table, and if a participant breaks that agreement, the parties both need to retain new lawyers. This creates an atmosphere of cooperation and trust and eliminates any threats of going to court.
Collaborative Law also provides a more holistic approach, bringing in professionals from each field to provide specialized advice. For example, instead of having your lawyer tell you what Judges typically order for parenting plans, you can have a child specialist who has met with your children and is trained in child development make recommendations to you and your spouse, and then you and your spouse can create a parenting plan that works best for your children and family.
Can we still do the Collaborative process if we don’t get along?
Absolutely. In fact, the Collaborative process can provide the support necessary for spouses who are having a hard time communicating with each other or working through the hurt and trauma of their separation. Big emotions are normal and ok! Often participants report that after going through the Collaborative divorce process, they communicate with their spouse better than they had during their marriage!
As summarized on the International Association of Collaborative Professionals website: “The guiding principles of Collaborative Process are respect, dignity, openness and fairness. This respectful tone encourages you to show compassion, understanding, and cooperation. Collaborative professionals are trained in non-confrontational negotiation, helping keep discussions productive. The goal of Collaborative Process is to build a settlement on areas of agreement, not to perpetuate disagreement.” These principles help build better communication both in the collaborative divorce process, and beyond.
Is a Collaborative agreement enforceable?
Yes. At the end of the process a legally binding agreement will be drafted by the lawyers and signed by the parties. This agreement can be filed with the court and can be enforced through Family Maintenance Enforcement Program if necessary. Should the parties wish to divorce, the divorce can be obtained by desk order through the courts, which means the parties don’t actually need to attend court.
At Duncan Allen Law LLP, both Laura Allen and Tannis Baradziej offer Collaborative Law services.