Collaborative divorce is a process by which couples work through issues of child custody, parenting time, division of financial assets and payment of marital bills and expenses through non-litigation techniques guided by specially-trained, experienced family law attorneys with the assistance, if necessary, of collaboratively trained professionals, such as child and financial specialists. The goals of collaborative practice are similar to litigation in that collaborative professionals consider the best interests of the children in custody and parenting time issues and the law in the division of assets and debts. However, collaborative professionals do not consider these issues in a vacuum, but rather in ways that also address the emotional and personal needs of the family that is being separated. Collaborative practice recognizes that the spouses are often forever linked – even if divorced – by children, grandchildren and long-time friends.
The collaborative model is designed to assist divorcing spouses work through their disputes constructively and peacefully. This allows both parties to move forward as individuals with dignity and respect without the post-traumatic stress that often accompanies divorce.
Just as in divorce litigation, collaborative practice requires both parties to provide full disclosure of all relevant issues and facts involving the children, as well as a full disclosure of all financial assets and liabilities. Both parties exchange all information and documentation necessary to make informed decisions regarding custody, parenting time, and division of the marital estate. Moreover, each party is given the time necessary to process, evaluate, and apply the information to his/her individual circumstances. Through collaboration and communication, parties are able to resolve their differences in such a way that is beneficial to both.
There is a Chinese proverb that is often used by collaborative professionals: “Never cut what can be untied.” This is especially true in cases where married couples, especially those with children, know that divorce is inevitable, but do not wish to undergo the financial, personal and emotional expense and stress of litigation. Dissolution is never a “winner-take-all” proposition. In fact, in most cases, there are no real winners, only losers. Protracted litigation takes a personal toll that may never be repaired. Litigation often results in emotional hurt, hard feelings, distrust and outright hatred, which negatively impacts the ability of the parties to successfully co-parent their children.