Collaborative Law Divorce – A Way to a Better Divorce?

people negotiating a contract. Human hands working with documents at desk and signing contract.

A divorce is costly.  The expense is not typically budgeted.  In complex or contested divorce cases, costs only increase as time progresses through the case.

Long, drawn-out divorce proceedings can also impact a person’s health.  The stress of a traditional divorce proceeding has been shown to impact the emotional and mental health and/or the physical health of a divorcing party.

Collaborative law offers a healthier, more efficient, and more affordable option to ending your marriage.  Keep reading to learn how you can get a better divorce.

What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative law is an alternative dispute resolution that was established to fill a void.  Under the collaborative model, all parties and their collaboratively trained attorneys work together toward a positive and acceptable resolution.

The lawyers involved have been collaboratively trained.  The collaboratively trained lawyers will guide the parties through the process.  Other collaborative trained professionals from other industries/professional services can also be called upon to join the Collaborative team to work through areas of concern and achieve resolution.  For example, there are collaboratively trained mental health specialists and financial specialists that are trained to join the Collaborative team.

The Parties Involved

In a Collaborative divorce, each spouse has their own collaboratively trained lawyer. The collaborative team may consist of the parties and their lawyers.  Or, as explained above, other collaboratively trained professionals may join the team.  The Collaborative Law Process is a client-centered process.  This means that no decisions are made without each spouse being fully informed and both parties making the decision on how to proceed to obtain the best resolution for each party’s future.  The team makes all decisions together.   As needed, they may call on other experts such as:

The Goal

The goal of the Academy of Northern Kentucky Collaborative Professionals is to help couples draw upon separation agreements that:

  • Are acceptable to both parties.
  • Provide guidelines that protect everyone involved.
  • Establish a foundation for positive post-divorce communication between spouses.
  • Assist in creating strong and healthy co-parenting arrangements.
  • Seek to minimize the costs and stresses associated with divorce.
  • Remove the traditional court system from. the divorce process.

Ideally, spouses will complete the Collaborative Divorce Process satisfied and capable of interacting with their former spouses in a healthy and productive manner.

How Does Collaborative Divorce Work?

The Collaborative Divorce Process begins when a couple decides that traditional litigation is not right for them. Instead, they choose to look for a better divorce alternative. This usually leads to couples considering Collaborative Divorce and ultimately asking “where can I find a Collaborative law attorney near me?”

Each spouse must hire their own lawyer. Both spouses must choose attorneys trained in Collaborative Divorce.

The Collaborative Participation Agreement

Once both spouses hire collaboratively trained lawyers, collaborative meetings are scheduled.  The entire process is conducted through meetings involving the Collaborative team.  The first meeting is primarily administrative and all parties will sign a Collaborative Participation Agreement. The Participation Agreement has been approved by The Academy of Northern Kentucky Collaborative Professionals (www.nkydivorce.com). 

Under this agreement, they commit to:

  • Seek acceptable outcomes;
  • Openly share information
  • Keep all financial arrangements in place until new arrangements are agreed upon;
  • Eliminate the Court system in making decisions for them;
  • Respect one another; and
  • Act with dignity and professionalism.

Importantly, the Collaborative Participation Agreements also has an exclusion clause. If the spouses choose to stop the Collaborative Process and go to court, they must get new lawyers.   Their collaborative attorneys will help to transition the case to their new litigation attorneys.  However, starting over in the traditional court system is time-consuming and expensive. This exclusion clause creates the motivation for all parties (the couple and the attorneys) to commit to the process and make collaboration work. 

Gathering of Information and Discussion

The next step after signing the Collaborative Participation Agreement is for the group to work together on gathering all information.  The Collaborative Process is transparent and requires full and complete disclosure.  Once all information is gathered, the parties and the collaborative attorneys are able to have fully informed discussions and begin discussion of pros and cons of options relating to all issues that need to be resolved.  Each  subject area is discussed and compromises are made to create the separation agreement.

This includes topics like:

  • division of assets and debt;
  • Custody of any children involved; and
  • Child support, alimony, and other financial payments.

A family specialist may be present to help spouses communicate and to keep tensions from rising during emotional conversations. Other experts may become involved to provide advice and/or information where appropriate. For example, a financial advisor might become involved to help a couple determine the best way to divide their assets.

The Divorce

At the conclusion of the Collaborative Process, the lawyers will draw up formal divorce paperwork and the couples’ separation agreement.

When is Working With a Collaborative Divorce Attorney Appropriate?

A Northern Kentucky Collaborative Divorce isn’t right for everyone. You may be a good candidate for a Collaborative Divorce if you:

  • Believe in an acceptable resolution;
  • Want to work on building a post-divorce relationship with your soon to be ex-spouse;
  • Feel that court is not the best way to create a healthy post-divorce structure for your family;
  • Want to limit the stress and costs of divorce;
  • Want privacy; and/or,
  • Want the assistance of counselors, coaches, and other supportive experts.

A Collaborative Divorce can make the process of separation easier than the impact of a judge making decisions for you.  It can also lay strong groundwork for positive post-divorce relationships. This can create a successful future for everyone involved for decades to come.

Who Should Not Seek Out a Collaborative Divorce Lawyer?

A collaborative divorce attorney can only help you find success if both spouses are equally committed to the process. This means that Collaborative Law is generally not a good choice if your spouse:

  • Cannot be trusted to share vital information;
  • Is not willing to negotiate in good faith;
  • Is violent, aggressive, or threatening;
  • Refuses to participate; and/or,
  • Will not hire a collaborative attorney

If you attempt collaboration and your spouse’s attorney discovers that he or she is withholding information or otherwise sabotaging the process, they are required to inform you and immediately end the Collaborative Process. As such, it is not generally a good use of time, money, or energy to try Collaborative Law with a combative or untrustworthy spouse.

What Do I Look for in a Collaborative Divorce Lawyer Near Me?

When searching for a collaborative divorce lawyer, it is important to choose carefully. Your attorney will play a key role in helping you achieve a better divorce. As such, you should look for someone you feel comfortable with.

Look for an attorney that listens to you and understands your concerns. You should feel able to confidently communicate with your lawyer, even about difficult topics.

Their credentials matter, as well. You must choose an attorney who is properly trained in Collaborative Law. The attorney should also have practical experience with the Process.

Your lawyer should be deeply familiar with family and divorce law in your state. Finally, your lawyer should be well-connected locally. They should be able to point you to the type of qualified and experienced experts you may need during the Process. For instance, they should have strong working relationships with counselors or mediators who can join your sessions.

How to Get Started

What do you do if you are interested in a Collaborative Law divorce? How do you get started?

The first step is to talk to your spouse. Provide them with some information about the Process. Explain why you think it might be a good fit for your situation and ask for their opinion.

If your spouse is willing to consider the CollaborativeProcess, the next question to ask is “what lawyers handle Collaborative Diivorce near me?”  Look at the attorneys in your area to see which ones are trained in and offer Collaborative Divorce services. Check their reviews and credentials.

When you think you’ve found a possible attorney, make an appointment to speak to them.

Consider putting together a list of questions and concerns to take with you. Meeting with a lawyer for the first time can be intimidating. Having a list will help you stay focused on your priorities and make it easier to relax and get the information that you need.

Documentation

You may want to start thinking about what documentation you will need, as well. Check to see if you have or have easy access to key documents. This may include:

  • Income information;
  • Tax returns;
  • Property deeds;
  • Vehicle titles;
  • Insurance policies;
  • Bank statements; and
  • Retirement fund information.

If you find yourself missing any information, make arrangements to get copies as soon as possible. Having these documents on hand will help your lawyer understand all the factors involved in your case. It will also prevent delays later in the process.

Collaborative Law Service Costs

Working with a Collaborative Divorce lawyer can be far more cost-effective than enduring a drawn-out litigation process. However, there will be some costs. These include attorney fees, legal filing fees, and the cost of any specialized Collaboratively trained experts needed for assistance. Consider how you will pay for these costs. If possible, include your spouse in the planning.  A little forethought on this point can prevent future financial stress.

Jackson Family Law

Jackson Family Law has been helping couples and families design a better divorce for more than 25 years.  Ruth Jackson is an experienced Collaboratively trained attorney and serves residents across Northern Kentucky including Boone, Kenton, and Campbell Counties. If you are considering a Collaborative Divorce, Ruth Jackson can help.

Check out the extensive resources in our Learning Center or contact us today. We’ll be happy to set you up with a consultation and help you determine if Collaborative Law is right for you.

About Jackson Family Law

Jackson Family Law has been serving the families of Northern Kentucky for 24 years.  

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