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What Is a Collaborative Divorce?
With a collaborative law divorce you create opportunities for an amicable divorce, where low cost strategies are made possible through inexpensive family law divorce advice, effective consultation time, and finally a plan to create a no fight divorce resolution for all parties involved. Regardless of your situation, it is possible to reach an agreement that is in accord with your family values, preserves both parties relationship with the children involved in the situation, and often, even with each other, long after your divorce is final.
There are many benefits to a collaborative divorce. First, a collaborative attorney can help you obtain an inexpensive fast divorce, where you and your partner achieve a long lasting, mutually agreeable and affordable resolution that is a product of your own decisions. In addition, when working with a collaborative attorney, all of your meetings are private and confidential, as opposed to traditional divorce litigation where all documents are public records available to your children, nosy neighbors, gossip websites, and more.
While involved in a collaborative divorce you are still represented by your own attorney, yet the process is non-adversarial and less expensive than traditional litigation. You spend your time resolving the issues instead of paying your lawyer to sit around a courthouse waiting for your matter to be heard. After all, do you really want to spend your children's college tuition money and delay your retirement just so you can afford a high-priced lawyer to "beat up" on your spouse?
Pros & Cons of a Collaborative Divorce
How it Works
First, both spouses meet with their respective Collaborative attorneys to discuss individual needs and concerns. Then, the couple and their attorneys meet in a series of four-way sessions to reach a settlement without involving the court. Every issue - including property division, parenting time allocation, and financial support -are discussed in these sessions. At times, on an as needed basis, other professionals including Mental Health Professionals and Financial Experts may become part of the "team" to assist couples in reaching amicable resolutions. Divorcing parties benefit from the skills, advice, and support of attorneys and other professionals experienced in the collaborative process while striving to work things out in a positive, future-focused manner. When a settlement is reached, attorneys file the appropriate paperwork required by the court, and the divorce is then finalized on an uncontested basis.
Why Should I Choose the Collaborative Process?
It establishes a team approach instead of adversaries. Your lawyer supports you; your spouse's lawyer supports your spouse. But you all work together in formulating resolutions to your marital difficulties and, in doing so, retain control of the process. Nothing gets resolved in a collaborative divorce unless you agree to it.
In matters requiring expert opinions, both parties can jointly hire one independent consultant. That helps shorten the duration of the case and reduce the overall expense.
You and your spouse shape the agreements together -- which means you both are more likely to abide by them in the future. Such an arrangement diminishes the parental conflict the adversarial litigation system tends to generate, and helps protect children from facing the anguish and divided loyalties that result from going to "war". You can schedule meetings with all parties without waiting for court dates. That means you generally spend less time and, as a result, less money to achieve your goals of emotional and financial closure. It also means you eliminate the fear and anxiety associated with court proceedings.
Your issues stay within the collaborative law setting. That gives you more privacy and greater confidentiality -- and less stress during an already stressful time.
Collaborative family law focuses on all involved parties reaching a mutually agreed upon settlement of their disputes. The process results in valuable benefits, such as, the ability to continue to communicate with your spouse for the benefit of the children at the conclusion of your divorce.
It creates a cooperative environment where communication remains open, which provides a setting where you can work with your spouse to meet your children's needs -- regardless of their ages. That helps set a tone for open communication and reduced conflict in the future.
Why Must a Lawyer Resign If the Other Side Decides to Go to Court?
The requirement that all lawyers be disqualified in the event of a breakdown guarantees that all participating counsel and the litigants will be totally motivated and committed to ensure that the process is successful. Thus, all participants are equally devoted to crafting the solutions to all of the outstanding issues. The manner in which the negotiation process takes place is positively affected by the certainty that lawyers will never litigate the case. Openness, candor, and cooperation replace guardedness, secrecy, and threats as the techniques most likely to achieve ultimate success. Walking out in anger, or provoking the other side to, ceases to be a viable tactic.
How Is Collaborative Law Different From Mediation?
Mediation involves the use of a neutral third party in facilitating the negotiation and settlement of a dispute between the parties. Parties retain the option of walking out of mediation and proceeding to litigate with their current attorneys. In collaborative law cases, lawyers and their clients will talk and negotiate with or without the assistance of a third party neutral, unless they find such an intervention would be useful. In mediation, the neutral cannot be an advocate for one party over another, or propose a possible outcome if the case is litigated. In a collaborative law case the attorneys are committed to continuing a productive dialogue until such time as satisfactory solution is reached since litigation involving the parties is not an option.
Sometime after Entering into a Settlement as a Result of a Collaborative Law Process, a Collaborative Lawyer Discovers That the Other Party Failed to Disclose Information That Should Have Been Disclosed?
In this respect, a settlement agreement reached via a collaborative law process is no different from any other negotiated settlement agreement, and the former is no more or less susceptible to being annulled for such a reason than the latter. Any settlement agreement reached during the collaborative law process, the attorneys and the parties should recite the material facts upon which the settlement is based.
What If the Settlement is Not Achieved Cooperatively?
In the event the parties are unable to arrive at a settlement through the Collaborative Law Process, the lawyers withdraw from the case and the parties are free to retain trial attorneys to pursue their matter in court. The result is that the parties will have the best representation for each phase of the proceeding, and probably save time spent in a subsequent, costlier trial.
Under What Circumstance Would You Want to Use a Mental Health Professional as Part of Your Collaborative Divorce Team?
Divorce is a life-changing event for you and your family. During this time of high stress, you may have some of these or related concerns: How can I protect my children's best interests? How can I maintain control of the process and get a fair outcome? How will I get through this experience safely? A Collaborative Divorce Team, with both attorneys and mental health professionals, offers the support and expertise to guide you to the best possible outcome, allowing everyone in the family to move forward. Most, if not all aspects of getting a divorce, have the potential to stir up deep feelings which need to be understood so that they do not negatively impact the outcome.
The Divorce Facilitator, is a licensed Mental Health Professional on the Collaborative Divorce Team, who will meet with you to address any emotional obstacles related to getting through the divorce process. This person is trained in divorce mediation and is experienced in working with divorce attorneys. Part of the collaborative teamwork involves attorneys and coaches communicating with each other to best serve the couple's or family's needs. Except for the sharing with the Team, all information is confidential. Facilitators are not working as psychotherapists. If counseling seems indicated, referrals are offered. We can use just one person as a neutral facilitator or each party can have his or her own facilitator (also commonly called a Divorce Coach.)
If you seek to redefine your family as one unit now residing in two separate places on a cost effective basis, a Collaborative Divorce is an excellent option to explore.
To file for divorce in New Jersey under no-fault grounds, the couple must have been living separate and apart in different residences for at least 18 consecutive months. There must be no hope of reconciliation in the marriage.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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