When couples decide to divorce, most are aware of traditional divorce litigation where each party gets their own attorney, and the adversarial process begins. It is easy with parties in litigation, each armed with their own attorney, to see everything as a fight with only one winner, making the other party the loser. Winning and losing should not be the standard for a family law case and there is a better way. In a Collaborative Divorce, couples work together with their attorneys to resolve issues without court intervention.
How a Collaborative Divorce Works
Purpose of a Collaborative Divorce. The purpose of a Collaborative Divorce process is to help the family unit transition to a different family structure, one that no longer lives in one home. This is especially important when there are minor children. The unit can still function to support each other and provide the comfort of a family but in a different way. Even adult children appreciate knowing that they can have both parents at life events without feeling the tension that often results from a typical divorce.
How it works. A Collaborative Divorce uses a team approach to resolve the issues without court intervention. The team consists of the spouses who each have specially trained Collaborative Divorce attorneys. Neutral specialists are brought in to help the couple understand their options and to make decisions together based on guidance. For example:
- A neutral financial expert will help the couple understand the entirety of their financial picture, including assets, debts, cashflow, and projections for their future. The financial neutral will review budgets with the couple, itemize the needs of each spouse and the needs of the children so each spouse understands how to best allocate the family’s financial resources.
- Divorce coaches help with the emotional side of the process. They help couples become centered and think logically, to put on their business hats, calm down, and make good decisions for their future.
- Child specialists can assist the parents in understanding the importance of each parent supporting the child’s relationship with the co-parent. This includes the creation of a parenting plan which focuses on the individual needs of the children.
Role of a Collaborative Divorce Attorney
Collaborative Divorce attorneys help the client understand their legal rights and responsibilities while also assisting them to develop options and creative solutions tailored to the unique needs of their family.
At the beginning of the Collaborative process, the Collaborative Team agrees to the collaborative process of transparency and full disclosure and to not to go to court to resolve differences. The final settlement agreement known as the Judgment, is filed with the court and is fully enforceable as a Court order.
Collaborative Divorce works because it is designed to allow each party to emerge from the divorce without tearing the other side down in a courtroom. It works because the relationship with the children is prioritized. It works because the couple can keep the divorce private. Collaborative Divorce works because the goal is to meet the interests of each side and allow them to emerge from the divorce process without the bitterness and rancor that comes from going to court.
Judy has been an attorney since 1997, focused solely on the practice of Family Law. She is a past chair of the Fresno County Bar Association Family Law Section and is currently the chair of Central Valley Collaborative Divorce. After graduating Harvard College in 1986 with an A.B. in Sociology, Judy worked in Boston with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children working on a study of male sex-offenders, and later taught school for 4 years in Los Angeles, CA. Judy is the mom of two wonderful children, now young adults, one of whom has Autism and limited communication skills.