Couples face an emotional process whenever they decide that divorce is right for them, even if they agree. Ending a marriage, while common, can present both personal and legal challenges for each party, and couples often face confusion about what comes next. This uncertainty can exacerbate the difficulties, but there are ways to streamline the divorce process — including collaborative divorce.
The following guide will tell you what you need to know about collaborative divorce to help you get through the emotional and legal process ahead.
Understanding Collaborative Divorce
When most couples decide to get a divorce (or consider if they have legal grounds for one), they want to move through the process quickly and avoid going to court. A collaborative divorce helps them achieve that goal. Here’s what you need to know:
- The goal is achieved by working with trained professionals to resolve conflicts and reach a conclusion to divorce without setting foot in a courtroom.
- Unlike Virginia’s fault and no-fault divorce, collaborative divorce is not a type of divorce but rather a way to get a divorce.
- You receive support, protection, and guidance from your divorce lawyer, along with that of divorce coaches, child specialists, financial advisors, and additional experts.
A collaborative divorce will end with a negotiated marital separation agreement clearly stating your rights, responsibilities, and child custody, if applicable. It leaves the door open for clear communication between the parties, meaning they can easily share information and create solutions for their post-marriage priorities.
For couples who want to avoid a cut-throat, emotional, courtroom-based divorce, the collaborative process offers a suitable alternative — especially when minor children are involved. It can help your children better cope and adjust to their new reality.
10 Steps to Achieve a Collaborative Divorce
Every couple is different and has unique needs and challenges. The same is true of the divorce process. The following steps are the most common you and your spouse need to take to get a collaborative divorce.
- You each meet with your lawyers.
- Spouses provide their lawyers with personal details, including regarding their family situation and financials.
- You or your lawyer select collaborative professionals. This list may include child specialists, financial advisors, and collaborative mediators, among others.
- Discuss your goals for divorce with your lawyer.
- Each spouse’s lawyer drafts a proposed marital separation agreement to begin negotiations, including a parenting plan (if applicable).
- A collaborative mediator hosts negotiation with spouses and their respective attorneys.
- Lawyers take depositions of each spouse.
- One lawyer drafts a final marital separation agreement for both lawyers to review and approve.
- You and your lawyer review the final marital separation agreement to ensure it achieves your goals for divorce.
- You provide the marital separation agreement to a judge to sign off on and approve your divorce.
These steps are not always the same for every divorce, and some steps may repeat. You may have more or fewer steps involved in your collaborative divorce, depending on your situation. Your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer will meet to discuss details and continue negotiations throughout the process.
Benefits of Collaborative Divorce
Every type of divorce comes with challenges and emotions. That is unavoidable, but a collaborative one provides for a rational, non-combative manner in which to achieve the same result.
Through a collaborative divorce, you keep more control over the legal process by avoiding court. You do not allow a judge to make divorce and familial decisions for you, and you and your spouse work those conflicts out on your own through the help of your respective lawyers.
Because you have control over the process, you have less uncertainty about what will happen next. This gives you less anxiety, stress, and frustration, and allows you to keep your emotions in check.
By keeping your focus on your family (and possibly your children), you remain clear-headed and focused on the collaborative divorce process and your outcome.
By avoiding court, you can save time. Judge’s calendars are notoriously delayed. If you need to speak with a judge, it can take months to see them, prolonging the amount of time before your divorce is finalized. By avoiding judges altogether, you can speed up the process and complete your divorce faster.
Not going to court also means the collaborative divorce process is less formal. While the steps above are common, they are not required, rigid, or inflexible. By taking your divorce into your own hands, you determine what the process looks like and how formal the conversations and negotiations are with your spouse.
Collaborative divorce means you will receive expert guidance from financial advisors, family and child specialists, and even therapists. This process gives you a holistic approach to the process, setting you up for success in your new life.
Many people fear legal costs. Divorce can be expensive. Part of the expense around divorce, however, are court costs and fees. Collaborative divorce avoids court and eliminates those costly expenses, saving you money that you can use to help start your next chapter.
Working with a divorce lawyer who has experience in collaborative divorce can help you achieve your goals faster and more affordably. Through a collaborative divorce, you have more control over the process and what your post-marriage life looks like — for both you and your children.
Speak with a Trusted Collaborative Divorce Lawyer
If you are considering divorce or have already made up your mind, contact a trusted collaborative divorce lawyer today. Our team can answer your questions about this unique process and how it can benefit you and your family.