The Origins of Collaborative Divorce

The American Institute of Stress, using the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory Scale, ranks divorce as the second most stressful life event. Recognizing this, back in the 1990s, a group of attorneys in the state of Michigan came up with the idea of a collaborative divorce as a way to “troubleshoot and problem solve” by using mediation and negotiation as a way to settle divorce issues outside of the court setting.

Their idea swept the country. Today, collaborative divorce is practiced by attorneys in most states, and is designed to decrease the stress surrounding the divorce process and to help divorcing couples take charge of their own decision making instead of leaving the decisions to the court.

What is the Collaborative Divorce Process?

In a collaborative divorce, each party should hire an attorney who is trained in how to effectuate a collaborative divorce. You meet with your attorney to discuss your needs and goals. After that, you and your attorney meet with your spouse and his or her attorney to negotiate terms of all issues including:

  • Division of assets and debts.
  • Child custody and visitation.
  • Child support.
  • Spousal support.

Often, other specialists offer opinions. You may need an appraiser to place a value on property. Psychologists may be called in to offer opinions on child custody. A mediator, trained specifically in problem-solving techniques, may be involved in some meetings to help the parties come to an agreement on particularly contentious issues.

With only a few exceptions, discussions during collaboration and mediation meetings are confidential. If the process breaks down, and the parties decide to go the route of a conventional divorce, both attorneys must withdraw, and the parties must find new legal counsel that were not involved in the collaborative process.

Some Benefits of a Collaborative Divorce

  • Since the process focuses on negotiation and compromise, the parties avoid the adversarial nature of court proceedings.
  • It is generally more cost-effective than litigation.
  • It is quicker, since you choose the time and place of the meetings, and you do not depend on a busy court calendar to litigate various issues.
  • You have more control of the outcome, and you know that your opinions will be considered.
  • There is less stress, since each party plays an active role in the settlement agreement and is not at the mercy of an adverse court decision.
  • It is more likely that the terms of the divorce settlement will be followed, since the parties drafted it and agreed upon it themselves.

The attorneys at DiPietro Family Law Group are trained in Collaborative practice. We can provide the guidance you need regarding the Collaborative approach. Contact us online or call our offices at 202.609.7446.

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