Divorce is, undoubtedly, one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. Your family changes, your goals evolve, and your financial circumstances shift. For many people, healing and recovery from divorce does not begin until after the divorce is finalized.
The process of going through the court system to get a divorce can be riddled with uncertainty, anxiety, and animosity, particularly if it leads to litigation. The collaborative process can provide a forum that allows the healing to begin during the process of divorce and empowers you to make decisions about your future that benefit your family.
The goal of the collaborative process is to make sure that the resolution achieved serves the greater good of your family as a whole. You commit to the collaborative process by signing a formal agreement.
During the collaborative process, spouses find themselves having difficult, but helpful, conversations that they may not have during traditional litigation. Some conversations may include goals for the children, individual goals, and sharing hopes for their future co-parenting relationship. These topics generally do not play a role in traditional litigated cases, whereas they guide the conversation in collaborative cases.
What is collaborative law? Collaborative law is a formal process that requires all professionals and parties to commit to engage in an effort to reach resolution. This is different from mediation because it is a formal commitment by the parties involved to resolve the case, rather than a Court ordered requirement. Most collaborative cases involve a series of meetings that last for a brief period of time (2 to 3 hours). Each meeting has a specific agenda, laid out in writing, and they are scheduled well in advance.
Most collaboratively trained professionals agree that it is best to have a neutral facilitator present at every meeting. The facilitator’s role is to help the parties and attorneys engage in productive, non-adversarial communication and to keep the case moving forward. Some facilitators play dual roles and can act as parenting plan consultants or financial neutrals, depending on their specialty and the needs of the particular clients.
There are a few things that you should know, before you engage in the collaborative process:
1) The collaborative process is not for everyone. Engaging in this process requires a level of trust, self-awareness, and respect. If the primary reason for your divorce is based in distrust and dishonesty, this process may not be for you. The collaborative process requires transparency and cooperation in order for it to be successful.
2) Both of the attorneys involved should be trained and experienced in the collaborative process. Collaborative law is a specific and formal type of practice. If you are interested in the collaborative process, you and your spouse should look for attorneys who are trained to practice collaborative law.
3) Like traditional litigation, the cost of the process varies from case-to-case. While having additional professionals involved sounds expensive, many collaborative cases end up costing less or the same amount as a litigated case in the long-run. Going to Court is very costly, both financially and emotionally. The collaborative process gives families the opportunity to avoid the unpredictable financial and emotional aspects of litigation.
Most cases that begin in litigation tend to result in future litigation. Once you have created a relationship of competition and animosity with the other spouse, it is difficult to overcome when future disputes arise. Statistics show that the vast majority of cases that are resolved in the collaborative process do not ever require court intervention after the initial dissolution.
If your case is particularly complex and requires the involvement of multiple professionals and experts, it will be expensive. That is true, whether you are involved in the collaborative process or traditional litigation.
4) Your attorney is your advocate, but they will be committed to a level of transparency that is not necessarily required in traditional litigation. While the goal of traditional litigation is to “win” your best-case outcome, the commitment of your collaborative team is to seek resolution that benefits the family as a whole.
While your attorney is there to help represent your best interests, they are not there to strategize against, manipulate, or bully the other side.
While the collaborative process is not right for every case, it is a great option for those looking for a process that allows your family to heal throughout the course of your divorce. At Gebhardt, Emerson, & Moodie Family Law our Denver family law attorneys can help you to reach your goals. Our legal team understands the social, financial, and legal challenges you may face and can help you to prepare for what lies ahead.