What is collaborative divorce?
Collaborative divorce is a respectful and dignified process which supports your family’s goals for a smoother transition to the next stage of your lives. Divorce is both an ending and a new beginning. The collaborative divorce process helps you anticipate your needs as you move forward while prioritizing the future of your children, if children are involved. Through the collaborative process you develop and evaluate options or alternatives while aiming to construct a sustainable divorce agreement.
Do I need an attorney to represent me if I select the collaborative divorce process?
Yes. However, your attorney has a limited scope in representing you. The representation is limited to collaborative negotiations towards reaching a settlement.
During the collaborative divorce process, you and your spouse will be individually represented by collaboratively trained family law attorneys. The divorcing couple can choose any collaborative divorce attorney from an active collaborative divorce group. There are numerous collaborative divorce groups in the state of Connecticut. Typically, divorcing couples choose collaborative attorneys from the same geographical area in order to minimize travel. After you select an attorney, your attorney will discuss with you in further detail the collaborative divorce process and answer any specific questions that you may have. During this meeting, you will receive the information necessary to decide whether the collaborative divorce process is right for you and your situation.
What is a collaborative team and who are the members?
The team members may include:
- Attorneys who are collaboratively trained.
- A Coach who is a professional trained to facilitate communication within the process and manages the emotional aspects of the divorce thereby reducing disruption and damage.
- A Child Specialist who addresses the development and needs of children.
- A Financial Specialist who is trained as a financial analyst or CPA and reviews such things as cash flow, asset values and tax consequences.
- A Pension Attorney who identifies, reviews and determines the consequences of retirement benefits, deferred compensation plans, available distribution options and tax consequences.
What are some of the Key Elements of collaborative divorce?
- The divorcing couple and their respective collaborative attorneys make a pledge not to go to court. Both attorneys and other team professionals will withdraw from the process if either participant goes to court.
- There is a commitment of cooperation, respect and integrity and a respectful, creative effort to meet the legitimate needs of both participants and their children, if children are involved.
- In collaborative divorce, there is an open, honest exchange of information. The participants freely disclose all financial information and pertinent material. Neither participant takes advantage of the miscalculations or mistakes of the others. Errors are identified and corrected.
- If children are involved, both participants insulate the children from their disputes and, if custody becomes an issue, professional custody evaluations are avoided.
- Both participants may use the same coach, child specialist, financial specialist and pension attorney. All such experts, if involved during the collaborative process, will be retained jointly and remain neutral third parties.
- In collaborative divorce, the attorneys must guide the process to settlement or withdraw from further participation in the divorce process. Unlike adversarial lawyers, who remain involved whether the case settles or a trial is held, your collaborative attorney can no longer assist you should you decide to litigate.
- In collaborative divorce, both participants have equal access to the family’s funds to ensure that they both have access to professionals including collaborative attorneys of their choosing.
- All information exchanged between the participants and their respective attorneys in the joint meetings remains confidential.
How does the Collaborative Divorce Process work?
After the divorcing parties each hire a collaborative divorce attorney, everyone agrees in writing not to go to court. This means that your collaborative divorce attorney will not enter a Court Appearance on your behalf.
You meet privately with your attorney and the participants then schedule a series of joint meetings. The number of meetings needed to bring your case to a conclusion depends upon your circumstances. The meetings are designed to exchange all information, explore all options and to determine the agreement that best suits this unique family. If there is an immediate concern, it will be addressed at the meeting. Every meeting has an agenda and minutes are maintained.
The resulting divorce agreement, also called the Separation Agreement, will ultimately be made an order of the Connecticut Superior Court at the conclusion of the collaborative divorce process. This Separation Agreement becomes a court order.
What is the difference between traditional divorce and collaborative divorce?
In a traditional divorce, the divorcing couple relies upon the court system and judges to resolve their disputes. Unfortunately, in a traditional divorce, the couple often comes to view each other as adversaries, and the divorce may be a battleground. The resulting conflicts take an immense toll on the family’s emotions and finances. Collaborative divorce is by definition a non-adversarial approach. The collaborative divorce process is designed solely to make it possible for creative, respectful collective problem solving by the only people who will have to live with the decisions – the divorcing couple and their family. In collaborative divorce, the professionals focus on the divorcing couple and their circumstances rather than waiting in court for their case to be called. The professionals will assist the divorcing couple in the realistic discussions and reducing conflicts.
How does the cost of Collaborative Divorce compare with the cost of litigation?
Traditional court based divorce is often the most costly way to resolve a dispute. They are costly both emotionally and financially. It is common for traditional divorces to begin with a motion for temporary support. The result is a temporary court order rather than a final agreement on the issue. The court based divorce can last for a year or more, is not confidential, involves extensive legal maneuvering by attorneys, numerous hearings, the hiring of experts to support the legal arguments, and at the end, a lengthy trial with unpredictable results. The collaborative divorce process is confidential, can move faster and in most cases will be less expensive than traditional court-based divorce.
In collaborative divorce, the professionals focus on the participants and their circumstances rather than waiting in court for your case to be called. The professionals will assist the divorcing couple in the realistic discussions and reducing conflicts.
What happens if a participant is dishonest or uncooperative in some way, or misuses the collaborative divorce process?
In the participation agreement, the divorcing couple must be mutually respectful and agree to have an open and honest exchange of information.
If a determination is made that one of the parties is dishonest or fails to disclose pertinent information, the attorneys have an obligation to make everyone at the table aware. This may lead to a breakdown of the collaborative process due to the good faith as well as bad faith disputes. In the event of a breakdown, your collaborative attorney cannot represent you in the court process and you may incur additional fees to retain another attorney.
The collaborative participation agreement requires the collaborative attorneys to withdraw from representation if either spouse is dishonest or acting in bad faith.
What are some of the limitations of collaborative divorce?
- For the collaborative process to work both spouses must choose the collaborative divorce process and collaboratively trained attorneys.
- The collaborative attorneys represent you in a limited scope. Their representation is limited to collaborative negotiations towards reaching a final settlement or separation agreement.
- The collaborative divorce process can fail and litigation is, therefore, the only recourse.
- Your collaborative attorney has to withdraw if the collaborative process fails, and therefore you need to retain another attorney to prepare you for the litigation, and therefore you may incur additional expense.
- There is no guarantee that a collaborative divorce process will be successful in resolving the issues arising from your divorce, and this process cannot eliminate concerns about disharmony, distrust and irreconcilable differences.
How do the participants become involved in the collaborative divorce process?
Share this website with your spouse and any other materials available. Encourage your spouse to select a Family Law Attorney who is collaboratively trained.
To find out more about collaborative divorce contact one of the collaborative professionals listed on our “Team Members” page.Our team