The reality of divorce is that most cases settle – usually somewhere around 95% of cases do not proceed through litigation to obtain an order from a judge. With settlements so prevalent, some couples prefer to acknowledge that reality by focusing on alternatives to litigation as a way to resolve their disputes.
The emerging area of collaborative divorce has responded to couples’ desire for a more civil way to divorce. Hollywood couples like Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin call it a “conscious uncoupling.” Instead of spending time, money and energy arguing over legal entitlements, the parties direct their energy into making required separation decisions together that will help each of them build new individual lives.
Collaborative divorce acknowledges that the two spouses know their situation best and are the most interested in the outcome of their own divorce. Each party retains an attorney to advise them of their legal rights, but with the understanding that the goal is to protect those rights by negotiation, peaceful settlement and agreement rather than through contentious, expensive litigation. Meetings are led by a therapist who works to keep the parties focused on their interests and facilitates negotiations.
Parties share experts to assist with details – like business valuations, budgeting for new households, and evaluating child needs. Sharing experts minimizes the expense of having each party hire their own expert to argue with the other side about value. Experts aren’t “mine” or “yours,” but “ours” – a credentialed advisor you both agree to trust in setting an appropriate value.
For all its many benefits, there are some situations in which collaborative law is simply not a good fit. If you are interested in a collaborative divorce, you should discuss that option at your initial consultation, so the attorney can understand the unique facts of your case and whether collaborative will work for you.