Monday, December 5, 2011

Is Collaborative Divorce Right For You?

Recently, I have had a lot of people come into my office to discuss whether or not a collaborative divorce is right for them. Most people do not even understand what collaborative divorce is, and before you can decide that it's right for you, you have to understand what it is.

Defining it in its simplest terms, Collaborative divorce is a process driven by the parties that provides them with a dispute resolution alternative that allows them to put aside their own agendas and work for the collective whole of the family. All parties sign a participation agreement and in the event the collaborative process fails, the parties are required to discharge their respective attorneys' as well as the mental health and financial experts that they have engaged as part of their team. The reason that this type of divorce works is because of the commitment that both the Husband and the Wife make to one another that they are not going to go to court. This is not for everyone and its important to do all of your research regarding the collaborative process before you commit. However, here are five (5) key questions to ask yourself that should determine whether or not collaborative divorce is right for you.

1. COST- Do you currently have $25,000.00 to $50,000.00 that you are willing to pay up front for your divorce? Collaborative divorce requires the employment of two (2) attorneys, and usually a mental health and financial expert as part of the "team". While this may seem extraordinary, the average divorce can cost well over $50,000.00 if litigation is required. While it is hard for most people to shell out this amount of money up front, generally speaking, a collaborative divorce ends up saving you money in the long run.

2. EMOTION- Are you able to set aside your emotions in order to make logical informed decisions that require you to forget about the fact that you are hurt by your spouse? Emotions run high in any divorce, but in the collaborative process, you are required to sit across the table from your spouse and make decisions. If your hurt and anger will not allow you to make decisions, the collaborative divorce would be very difficult.

3. PROCESS- Are you able to look at the means rather than the ends? If you already have an exact idea on what you are looking to get out of your divorce in terms of property distribution, alimony and child issues, again a collaborative divorce would be difficult. Collaborative divorces are process driven, meaning that its not about where you would end up in court. Its about whether getting to a point where the outcome is equally palatable for both you, your spouse and your children.

4. GOALS- Do you and your spouse have common goals? In order for a collaborative divorce to work, you and your spouse not only have to have the common major goals, the sub goals need to be similar if not the same. Without common goals, collaborative divorce cannot work.

5. COLLECTIVE WHOLE- Are you concerned about your spouse and how the divorce will affect them? If you want your spouse to be okay after the divorce and for you to have a good working relationship with them, really the only way to achieve that goal is by putting the needs of your spouse at the same level you put your own. The normal divorce process encourages lobbying for position and thinking about your best possible outcome. This is the most difficult part about the collaborative divorce process because it requires you to put your spouse's needs not necessarily before your own, but on the same level.

If you answered yes to all of the questions above, then ask your attorney about collaborative divorce. If you answered yes to a few, but not all the questions, you should research this a bit more to determine whether its the right thing for you.