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Collaborative Divorce Process

The Basics

1. Initial meeting with your own collaborative attorney to discuss the facts of your situation and the collaborative process.

2. Communication between your collaborative attorney and your spouse regarding the collaborative process. This is typically a letter outlining the collaborative process and inquiring whether your spouse has in an interest in proceeding collaboratively.

3. Agreement between spouses and attorneys to handle the case collaboratively.

4. Create an agenda for initial meeting which normally includes addressing immediate issues such as household expenses and parenting time, discussing issues and concerns about divorce and post divorce life, establishing framework for addressing future issues, setting goals and reviewing collaborative divorce agreement.

5. In subsequent meetings, the parties:
a. Provide for service of writ to begin court proceedings
b. Fully disclose all relevant financial information to each other.
c. Discuss usefulness of engaging other professionals
d. Negotiate agreement that meets each party’s equitable goals.

 

6. Appearance in court to finalize the dissolution and to have the agreement entered as orders of the court.


Collaborative Divorce

The collaborative process is unique in its approach to resolving legal conflicts. You begin with a specially-trained collaborative professional, who is skilled not only in the law but also in the art of negotiating effective settlements in a collaborative manner. You meet privately with your collaborative attorney, sharing with that individual your concerns and goals.

Your attorney then speaks with your spouse’s collaborative attorney and together, they will design an agenda for your first group meeting, one which addresses the nuts and bolts of the collaborative process as well as the particular issues that might be most pressing for you and your spouse at that time.

At your first meeting, the four of you will review the collaborative agreement, a sample of which is included on this website. You discuss the agreement in detail, since it represents the commitment that the four of you are making to one another as well as to the collaborative process.

After you all sign the agreement, you and your spouse will be encouraged to talk about your goals. Some of these goals will address short-term needs and concerns but your collaborative professionals will also encourage you to look further ahead in your lives, toward significant events in the lives of your growing children and toward your own retirement.

These goals will become the foundation upon which you and your spouse will build your settlements, and you and your collaborative professionals will refer to them throughout the process, to insure that your agreements are addressing your goals. Finally, the four of you will develop an agenda for the next collaborative session, including a discussion and listing of documents that each of you will produce and share.

The collaborative process builds upon this very important first meeting. You, your spouse and your attorneys will continue to meet as a group until you come to a full settlement. What makes the collaborative process successful, however, is in the way those meetings are conducted. Your collaborative professionals are specifically trained in the art of generating options and helping their clients move through impasse. Therefore, the collaborative session is very different from a traditional four-way meeting between attorneys and clients.

There may come a time during a meeting where your attorney will turn to you and discuss a particular point, in full view of your spouse. You will have the opportunity to address your spouse across the table, raising issues and concerns safely, with the knowledge that your collaborative professionals are there to guide the discussion. All members of the collaborative group address one another freely, and attorneys do not “talk for” their clients. All of this reflects the goal of the collaborative process: to become a group of four individuals moving toward resolution in a way that is private and non-threatening.

The collaborative process relies upon open disclosure. All financial information is obtained and disclosed. Participants do not strategize behind closed doors with their collaborative professionals; instead, settlement options are suggested and fully explored openly and with an eye to achieving the goals of the participants. Occasionally, the collaborative group will incorporate the services of other professionals in resolving issues.

A business evaluator may be jointly retained by the participants to assess the value of one individual’s business, and then the evaluator may join a session. Or a collaborative Guardian ad litem, again jointly retained, will enter into the sessions to assist the participants in developing a parenting plan. Tax advisors, education specialists and pension experts are all appropriate for incorporation in particular collaborative sessions, depending upon the participants’ needs.

The law is a significant part of the collaborative process. However, your collaborative professionals will advise you that the law is fluid in may respects and they will encourage you to explore and tailor a settlement to fit the particular needs of you and your family. This give the collaborative participants an extraordinary level of control in the outcome of their legal issues, all conducted in a private setting with the guidance and support of skilled, trained professionals.