COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE is an option when both parties agree not to go to court to resolve their issues. Instead the parties attempt to reach a fair settlement by participating in a series of four-way meetings that include the two parties and their lawyers. At the onset, the parties sign a participation agreement, in which the parties and their lawyers agree as follows:
- The lawyers will not litigate the case. If the settlement process fails and the parties decide to litigate, the original attorneys must withdraw and the parties must retain new lawyers.
- Neither party will take advantage of mistakes by the other side.
- The parties will freely disclose all pertinent information and will not hide any material facts.
- What is said in the settlement meetings remains confidential.
- Everyone will behave courteously and in good faith.
Collaborative divorce is a team approach. Divorce coaches are available to help maintain smooth negotiations and help clarify long term goals. Neutral child development professionals may also be used to present shared parenting plan options and educate the parties on child development needs. Neutral financial experts can also be used to educate one or both parties on options for long-term financial security, dividing assets, and/or valuing a business. This collaborative process can greatly reduce the typical anxieties often associated with a litigated divorce, as well as provide for a less costly process when compared to the costs of litigation. The lower stress levels of collaborative divorce help both parties and their children adjust to the new circumstances. Moreover, because the attorneys will have to withdraw if the parties do not reach an agreement in collaborative divorce, the attorneys have an extra incentive to work towards a joint resolution.
Collaborative divorce is NOT a good option in situations involving domestic abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, or serious mental illness.
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