family breaking up

What Is Collaborative Divorce and Is It Right for You?

 

The traditional view of divorce is that it is a “win-lose” situation with spouses as enemies, locked in a protracted legal battle trying to defeat each other. It is stressful to work against each other and in the end, it may feel like no one really “won.”

 

The good news is that there are alternative ways to view the process of separation and divorce. In today’s post, we will discuss collaborative divorce as an alternative to the court based approach for dealing with family law matters.

What is collaborative divorce?
Collaborative divorce is a unique form of dispute resolution. The goal of collaborative divorce is to come to an agreement that settles all outstanding issues such as child custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support and property division. The main objective is to find mutually agreeable solutions that benefit all parties while avoiding the negative financial and emotional consequences of litigation through the traditional court process. The agreement reached through the collaborative divorce process is put in writing and signed by both spouses. It forms an Agreement that is a binding and enforceable legal contract.


Who is involved in the collaborative divorce process?
Throughout the collaborative divorce process, each spouse is represented by their own specially trained lawyer who provides legal advice, ensures proper disclosure of financial information, and acts as an advocate and support through the negotiation process. In addition to the spouses and each spouse’s lawyer, there may be other professionals involved as part of the collaborative divorce team as needed, such as child specialists, divorce coaches, financial advisers and property valuators.


Is collaborative divorce right for you?
It is often assumed that the collaborative process is not suitable for high-conflict divorces, when in fact, the collaborative divorce process is designed to decrease conflict, manage emotions, and improve communication. All of this is particularly important if you have children as you will hopefully work together in the best interests of the children post-divorce. Collaborative divorce may not be appropriate if there has been violence in the relationship, child abuse, mental health issues or if one spouse refuses to participate fairly in the process. A divorce lawyer can help you to determine if collaborative divorce is right for you.


How does the collaborative divorce process work?
The foundation of the collaborative divorce process is the willingness to discuss and resolve outstanding issues in good faith. The spouses and their respective lawyers show their commitment to this approach at the outset by signing an agreement which sets out the terms for the process. The agreement requires the parties to agree to work together in good faith to reach an agreement in everyone’s best interests, to disclose all relevant information in a timely manner and to communicate with honesty and respect. The parties also agree that neither will go to court or threaten to go to court during the process and that if either party starts court proceedings, their respective lawyers and any other professionals who were part of the collaborative divorce process are disqualified from continuing to be involved with these spouses.


What happens next in the collaborative process?
Once the parties have entered the Agreement, you and your spouse control the time line as opposed to the court rules which will determine the guidelines. The process of disclosing information and documentation will begin and a series of collaborative meetings will take place. One of the hallmarks of collaborative divorce is that there are often four-way meetings attended by both spouses and their lawyers. Other professionals (e.g., divorce coach, child specialist, or financial specialist) may also participate and assist the parties as needed. All discussions and negotiations are confidential and “without prejudice”. If an agreement cannot be reached, and if some issues can not be agreed upon, the parties can still resort to the courts to decide the contested issues. If the spouses are able to reach an agreement on some or all of the outstanding issues through the collaborative process, their lawyers will draft a Separation Agreement which incorporates the agreed upon terms or one of them will prepare and file the necessary paperwork to obtain a Consent Order which sets out the agreed upon terms.


Interested in collaborative law? Contact an experienced family lawyer
If you need advice from an experienced BC divorce lawyer with respect to the options for resolving your family law matters, including whether collaborative divorce is right for you, we recommend you contact Valerie M. Little Family Law Corporation. Ms. Little's practice is exclusively devoted to issues of family law. She provides legal services to families in Burnaby, Coquitlam and New Westminster and throughout the Lower Mainland. No matter what family law questions or issues you might be facing, Ms. Little and her experienced team are ready to help you. You will receive attentive care and understanding at the office of Valerie M. Little. For more information about our family law office or to schedule your own personal consultation, please call us today.

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