If you're considering divorce, litigation is not the only option to end your marriage. In fact, you may be able to divide assets, resolve child support issues, and reach an agreement concerning custody without ever stepping foot into a courtroom. Collaborative divorce is becoming an increasingly common way for divorcing couples to work out their disputes and part ways amicably.
Collaborative divorce is a non-adversarial method that allows spouses to negotiate a divorce settlement without court intervention. Not only can eliminating the "win" mentality from divorce save the parties the significant expense that is incurred during litigation — but it can also reduce the negative emotional impact associated with it. Importantly, by utilizing the collaborative divorce process, divorcing spouses can foster a positive relationship for the benefit of their children and long-term co-parenting success.
The collaborative divorce process starts with the commitment of each spouse to resolve any disputes concerning property division, child support, custody, and spousal support in good faith without resorting to litigation. The spouses enter into a written agreement with their attorneys promising that they will work toward a fair outcome and disclose any documents or financial information relevant to the case.
Collaborative divorce offers a number of benefits. It can help divorcing spouses:
Once the collaborative process begins, it’s essential to make every effort to see it through. If either spouse decides that they no longer wish to go forward with the collaborative process, they must retain new attorneys for litigation and start from the beginning.
The collaborative process utilizes a team of professionals who assist with various matters that can arise as the couple works to reach a resolution. Since every divorce is unique, the assembled team will be different in each case, based on the needs of the situation.
For example, the parties may hire an accountant to offer financial analyses in cases involving significant assets, or an appraiser who can place an accurate value on the marital home. A financial neutral may also be brought in to assist with creating a comprehensive financial settlement plan. When children are involved, a custody specialist might help the parties understand what type of living arrangements would be in the child's best interests.
Just because the spouses agree to a collaborative divorce doesn't mean the process will be entirely conflict-free. In cases that are more contentious, a mental health professional may take part in the process to help facilitate respectful communication between the spouses. They can also provide the spouses with problem solving skills and tools that promote healthy interaction long after the divorce has been finalized.
Unlike litigation which takes place in a public courtroom, collaborative divorce is conducted privately in a neutral setting. The spouses have complete control over the outcome of their matrimonial matter, rather than let a judge decide. While lawyers still provide support, guidance, and legal advice throughout the process, they do not take an adversarial approach. Both the spouses and their attorneys agree that they will not threaten to take the case to court at any time during the collaborative process.
There is no formal discovery in collaborative divorce. But this does not eliminate the necessity for financial disclosure — in any divorce, each spouse must have an understanding of the other's financial situation to make informed decisions and reach a fair settlement.
Instead of making requests for information through their attorneys, spouses who participate in the collaborative process pledge to exchange information with each other voluntarily. Since the spouses willingly consent to make full disclosure at the outset of the collaborative process, the discovery disputes that often arise in litigated cases can be avoided. Critically, collaborative attorneys are obligated to ensure their client discloses all relevant information.
One of the biggest advantages of collaborative divorce is that it encourages the parties to find creative solutions to fit their family's specific needs. This is particularly important when blended families are involved.
Not only can adjusting to a blended family be emotionally difficult for children, but the parties might also face challenges when it comes to parenting their children — and stepchildren — with their new spouses once they remarry. When parties use the collaborative process, they can build a solid foundation for an amicable co-parenting relationship with each other, as well as any stepparents who might be taking an active part in the children’s lives.
In a collaborative divorce, the children’s wellbeing is first and foremost. During the collaborative process, divorcing spouses can talk openly about their expectations for parenting, discipline, and education to develop a comprehensive parenting plan. They can also be proactive and freely discuss their plans for handling any issues concerning new family dynamics that may arise down the road, and brainstorm ideas for helping their children become acclimated to a new environment.
If both spouses agree to participate, the collaborative divorce process can be a more effective and healthier way to end a marriage. Although it may not be right for every situation — such as those involving abuse or domestic violence — more couples are turning to the collaborative process for the flexibility and other benefits it can offer them and their families. The best way to find out if the collaborative process is a fit for you is to discuss your specific case with a collaborative divorce attorney.
If you’re considering collaborative divorce, it’s crucial to have an attorney on your side with the skill and experience necessary to help you achieve your goals. Based in Salem, Litowich Law is committed to providing clients throughout Oregon with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions during the divorce process. We welcome you to contact us to schedule a consultation.