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January 19th, 2017 by Marta J. Papa


Part 5 – Thus far, I have discussed three methods for gaining a divorce: The Pro Se Divorce, The Non-Contested Divorce, and The Mediated Divorce. In each of these instances, a great deal of time and expense can be saved by divorcing couples. Furthermore, since there are no disputes between the spouses surrounding childcare, property, or cash flow issues, the necessity for legal representation is reduced, as well: One attorney is capable of composing and filing all the necessary paperwork to satisfy the court system. By choosing to maintain a cooperative demeanor, freely and truthfully providing all necessary paperwork/information, and focusing upon the future rather than the past, these divorcing couples are the most fortunate. They are ready to move forward and are capable of doing so with the least amount of duress. At other times, however, more legal representation and involvement are necessary, which brings us to the fourth type of divorce: The Collaborative Law Divorce.

In a Collaborative Law Divorce, couples still desire to resolve legal issues in a non-adversarial manner. Yet, unlike the previous three types of divorce, each spouse is represented at the negotiating table by an attorney. Therefore, each party retains legal counsel in order to assure fairness in the settlement of property, cash flow, and child custody matters. All parties, however, meet in unison to assure open and honest communication.

In addition to each party being represented by a personal attorney, a Collaborative Law Divorce also often utilizes the assistance of a mental health professional and a certified financial planner. Thus, the couple’s divorce team frequently is composed of four professionals to guide and negotiate them through the marital dissolution process. This style of divorce is often utilized when one spouse feels more vulnerable or intimated by the divorce process.

As with the previous types of divorce, the goal is to avoid costly and divisive litigation. Both attorneys agree to assist their clients in resolving dissolution issues around a table rather than in a courtroom. To ensure both parties are working productively toward an agreeable settlement, each spouse must sign a contract with his/her respective attorney that provides for full and honest disclosure of all pertinent information, financial or otherwise. The contract binds the couple to the process and disqualifies their respective lawyer’s right to represent either one in any future family-related litigation. If a party stonewalls or withholds information, he/she is guilty of breaking the collaborative law contract, and the process is halted.

Thus, full disclosure of all necessary information and the capability of civil/cooperative discussions allow these couples to avoid the uncertainty and threat of a court involvement. And, as with the previous three divorce options, the spouses consensually and mutually resolve their disputes.  Revenge and/or punishment of their soon-to-be ex-spouse are never the goals here. Rather, these couples’ utmost desire is to proceed towards the future with clarity and their well-being intact, with the aid of a support team. The results of couples choosing a Collaborative Law Divorce? Saved time, less stress, lower costs, and happier kids. In other words, the devastation of ongoing, interpersonal conflict is averted! And, fortunately for all divorcing couples, 95% of cases do not go before a judge at trial.