What is Collaborative Divorce? 

Never heard of Collaborative Divorce? I’m not surprised. Unfortunately, it is rare that I meet with a client who has ever heard the term. I want to change that because I truly believe that Collaborative Divorce is the best way for families to go about navigating the process of separation and divorce. 

Collaborative Divorce (note the capital C and the capital D) is a method of dispute resolution for families going through separation and divorce. It is an alternative to litigation and what I call traditional negotiations. The most important aspects of Collaborative Divorce are:

  • Respect: At the start of the process, the parties and the professionals involved make a commitment (in writing) to treating one another with respect throughout the process. 
  • Transparency: We also commit, in writing, to being forthcoming with the documents and information relevant to the issues of the case. 
  • Peace: The purpose of the Collaborative Process is for couples who are parting ways to find durable and lasting resolution of all issues arising out of their separation while minimizing conflict, thereby preserving relationships which enable couples to effectively co-parent. Note that this does not mean that Collaborative Divorce is only appropriate for couples who are amicable with one another despite their plans to separate. 
  • Customization: The Collaborative Divorce process is easily customized to meet the particular needs of any family. 
  • Privacy: Did you know that any document filed with the court system is public record and anyone can walk into the courthouse, pull your file, and view (and even photocopy) the contents of the file? In the Collaborative Process, you will never step foot in a courtroom full of strangers and no one will be filing pleadings with the court including salacious allegations about intimate aspects of your relationship with your spouse. 

In a Collaborative case, both parties are represented by attorneys who are trained in Collaborative Divorce. In addition to Collaborative attorneys, other Collaboratively-trained professionals may be needed, depending on the needs of the case: a child specialist, financial neutral, and/or divorce coach. Each professional involved has the same Collaborative training and distinct roles working with the family. They also each sign the written Collaborative Participation Agreement at the start of the case. 

The process involves a series of in-person meetings between the parties and the professionals wherein needs and interests of each party are identified, options for resolution are evaluated, and agreements are fleshed out. Each case is different, but generally speaking, there are 4 or more meetings in the life of a Collaborative case. Outside of the meetings, there is a significant amount of legwork being done to prepare for the meetings, flesh out issues, and gather information. 

I say Collaborative Divorce is the best way for families to transition through separation and divorce because it allows couples to resolve their differences in a way that minimizes the toxicity that naturally comes out of an adversarial process. In litigation, couples go before a judge and advocate for their respective positions and in so doing, throw mud at the other party. Emotions are raw, everyone (including children) are stressed, and no one comes out unscathed. The Collaborative Divorce process offers families a way of resolving differences with the help of professionals who are interested in seeing the family thrive and who genuinely care about what life on the other side of divorce looks like. Generally speaking, Collaborative Divorce tends to be significantly less expensive than the alternatives. 

I have had the honor of serving on the Executive Committee of Charlotte Collaborative Divorce Professionals (CCDP), our local Collaborative practice group. I encourage you to read more about Collaborative Divorce on the CCDP website. I am also a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) and their website offers many helpful resources.

Article by Courtney Smith, Board Certified Specialist in Family Law




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