Collaborative divorce is a relatively new divorce technique which offers a non-adversarial process in which both spouses commit to working out their divorce without court intervention. A Minnesota lawyer, Stuart Webb, created collaborative divorce in 1990 after spending years attempting to settle unmanageable divorce issues in court. Stuart refused to go to court on behalf of his clients ever again, vowing to negotiate their issues outside the courtroom instead. As time passed, the process became more official, involving a contract signed by both parties in a divorce.
Collaborative divorce gained popularity when those involved with divorce (lawyers, courts and judges) recognized that divorce is an issue which encompasses personal relationships and high emotions, and while it requires necessary legalities, it is not a legal issue, per se. The Sarasota attorneys at The Law Place are committed to helping those going through a divorce find the method which will work best for them, for their particular situation. If collaborative divorce is right for you, we will assist you in the process.
Understanding Collaborative Divorce
Many people confuse collaborative divorce with mediation, however the two are very different from one another. During mediation, a neutral third party—the mediator—is brought into the divorce process. Collaborative divorce does not require the services of a mediator, rather allows the two spouses to work with one another and their attorneys to achieve a mutually agreeable settlement. The attorneys for each spouse are an integral part of the collaborative divorce and will continue to provide their client with independent legal advice during the process.
Is Collaborative Divorce for Me?
Collaborative divorce is not for everyone—in fact, there are not a large number of divorces for which collaborative divorce works. The two parties involved in a collaborative divorce must be totally committed to working with one another in order to achieve a mutually acceptable settlement. If you are leaning toward a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse must both believe that your marriage is over and that divorce is the best course of action for all those involved. You must both be able to step away from the emotions of your divorce, have no hidden agendas, and be absolutely dedicated to an amicable outcome. Collaborative divorce addresses many issues and attempts to look at the “big picture,” which includes the emotional health and wellbeing of both partners and the children. If you feel that you and your spouse fit these criteria, a collaborative divorce could be the best courts of action for your divorce.
Pros and Cons of Collaborative Divorce
Collaborative divorce has the advantage of minimizing both the conflict and expense associated with the “typical” divorce. Making the commitment to a collaborative divorce can stabilize the home situation until the divorce is final. Once you and your spouse agree to a collaborative divorce, information will be exchanged voluntarily rather than having to file a demand in court every time information is required to complete the settlement. Jointly retained neutral professionals, such as appraisers, CPAs or counselors for the children, will work with the couple to achieve the best possible results. Post-divorce issues may also be addressed during a collaborative divorce. In the end, a collaborative divorce could cost you much less, take less time and result in a much more peaceful divorce with fewer residual resentments between you and your spouse.
Marriages which have a long history of contentious behavior will not be good candidates for collaborative divorce. If the divorce is being instigated due to an affair, if there has been a history of violence in the marriage, or if there has been drug and alcohol abuse during the marriage then collaborative divorce would not likely have a positive result.
If you and your spouse agree to a collaborative divorce, then are unable to reach an agreement, none of the documents generated during the collaborative divorce can be used in court. This is meant to dissuade those who choose collaborative divorce from deviating from the process, once started, however it can send the divorce back to the drawing board should the process fail. In other words, you and your spouse as well as your individual attorneys will enter into a binding agreement, committing to resolve all divorce issues without court intervention. Should a settlement fail, both attorneys must withdraw and you must start over.
Other Considerations Regarding Collaborative Divorce in Florida
Collaborative divorce unites all those involved in the process of resolving all family law issues by agreement rather than through a trial and a judge’s decision. If your collaborative divorce process is successful, the attorneys at The Law Place will provide a copy of the marital settlement agreement to the judge for his or her inspection. Remember that judges do have discretion regarding such agreements. The judge has the power to reject your marital settlement agreement if he or she feels it violates Florida law, or could reject the Parenting Plan if he or she feels it is not in the child’s best interests. In most cases, however, the judge will sign a final judgment, incorporating the marital settlement agreement, and your divorce will be final. Our attorneys can discuss your particular situation with you, determining whether a collaborative divorce is right for you and explaining how The Law Place can help.