The divorce process can be emotionally exhausting and cause a lot of conflict. Thankfully, there is an alternative to traditional divorce that can make the process quicker and smoother: collaborative divorce. This alternative changes the process as well as the outcome, both in terms of asset separation and mental impact.
Wondering if a collaborative divorce is right for your situation? This information from the dedicated divorce team at Alison Grant, Attorney at Law can help you decide.
What Is a Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative divorce is a legal process that allows the couple involved to negotiate with each other all of the terms of divorce instead of bringing it before a court. This process is done through a combination of mediation and negotiation in hopes of reaching an agreement on the terms. This includes settling disputes over property, debt division, child custody and child support, and spousal support.
Breaking Down the Collaborative Divorce Process
Collaborative divorce requires both spouses to work together to come to an agreement on the divorce terms. If either spouse is not willing to negotiate or work with the other, then a collaborative divorce will not work.
If both spouses are willing to work together, then these are the steps that need to be taken:
1. Hire a Divorce Attorney
Each spouse should hire their own divorce attorney to ensure that their rights and opinions are equally represented during the divorce process. When you are deciding on an attorney, make sure that they have experience in the collaborative divorce process. This ensures that your attorney will know different dispute resolution techniques, such as mediation, instead of the traditional hashing it out at court and allowing the judge to decide.
An experienced collaborative divorce attorney will know how to ensure that the result of the settlement is fair to both parties involved. Having an attorney for each spouse will ensure that both sides are represented and that if either spouse is uncomfortable with the terms, their voice is heard. Your attorney will be a strong advocate for your interests and work to ensure that the result is to your benefit, not just the benefit of your spouse.
2. Meeting With Your Attorney to Discuss Your Needs From the Divorce
Before you and your spouse meet, you will want to have a private discussion with your divorce attorney. This will ensure that both you and your attorney are on the same page as to how you would like to divide your assets and debts, how you want to handle child custody and support, or whether or not you will be asking for spousal support.
Oftentimes, specialists will be brought in to ensure that you are getting the right information for what you will need after your divorce. Your divorce attorney may recommend bringing in a divorce coach, financial specialist, and even a child specialist to ensure that all needs will be met. These specialists, unlike your attorney, will be working alongside you and your spouse to ensure that both parties are being taken care of.
Some cases may not need the specialists, but it is highly recommended to use a child specialist if there are minor children involved in the divorce.
3. Meeting With Your Spouse
After both spouses have had a chance to meet with their respective attorneys, it will be time to meet with your spouse and their attorney. During the initial meeting, both parties will be asked to sign a “no court” agreement. This allows both attorneys to withdraw from your case if either spouse decides to exit from the collaborative divorce process to pursue litigation in court.
The “no court” agreement holds both parties accountable and is a strong incentive for the spouses to work with each other to reach a resolution. If you or your spouse at any point refuses to work together, your attorneys may decide to withdraw, leading you to have to hire a new legal team which can get very costly.
A few meetings may take place after the initial meeting between you and your spouse and the attorneys to address the settlement of the divorce. These meetings will be to go over both you and your spouse’s wants and needs. At this point, you need to be open and honest with any information that may be necessary to properly proceed with negotiations. This may include providing tax return information, your employment and salary status, and any debts you may have accrued during the marriage. Assets will also be reviewed during this time, such as any 401Ks, that will then be split between you and your spouse.
Unlike traditional divorces, a collaborative divorce does not have a discovery process. This means that both spouses have to rely on each other’s honesty during the collaborative divorce process. If you suspect or believe that your spouse will or is hiding information from you about their assets, finances, or debts, then a collaborative divorce is not right for you.
While hiding financial information during a divorce proceeding is not unheard of, it is a serious problem. If you or your spouse find proof that the other lied during the proceedings, the court may reopen your divorce case and alter the settlement. Honesty is always the best policy.
4. The Settlement Agreement
Once the terms of the divorce have been finalized, your lawyers will draft a decree of divorce that both parties will be required to sign. Make sure you read over the document carefully and do not sign unless you agree with the terms of the divorce. If the decree of divorce is signed by both spouses it will be submitted to the court for entry. Once the Judge signs the decree of divorce your divorce is final.
Collaborative Divorce Vs. Traditional Divorce
Collaborative divorce may not work for every case. It is important to consider the factors going into your divorce before deciding if a collaborative one will work for you.
Are You On Good Terms With Your Partner?
Traditional divorce is a very stressful and contentious process by nature. You do not want to stir up any more conflict if it isn’t necessary. Collaborative divorce helps you avoid any unnecessary fighting or anger for spouses who are still on good terms with each other.
Are There Children Involved?
Divorce is an extremely hard process for kids; you don’t want to make it worse by prolonging the process and stirring up any anger or resentment. If you believe that you can reach custody and child support arrangements without the help of a judge, collaborative divorce may be the way to go.
Do You Want to Save Money?
Dragged-out legal trials can get expensive fast. Collaborative divorce allows for a quick and easy break that doesn’t drain all your funds.
Of course, two parties wanting to work together won’t necessarily mean an immediate resolution. Each party will still have their differences. However, if they are both willing to work through negotiations and mediation, then they can reach a compromise and get things settled much quicker.
Need a Collaborative Divorce Attorney?
Do you think that collaborative divorce is right for you? Do you have more questions regarding the collaborative process in the state of Texas? Contact the dedicated team at Alison Grant, Attorney at Law today for more information.