Traditional Divorce vs Collaborative Divorce

A man and a woman - both looking angry - stand back-to-back beside the words "Traditional vs Collaborative Divorce"As you prepare to get divorced, you likely imagine (and dread) a long, drawn-out, and stressful court battle. But does it really have to be that way?

The answer is that it all depends on the circumstances. In certain situations, you might be able to end the marriage quickly and amicably by going through a collaborative divorce. So what exactly is collaborative divorce? Below is a breakdown of the differences between collaborative and traditional divorce, and the conditions which make collaboration a viable option.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce is a form of divorcing your spouse that is handled out of court. Each party still has a divorce lawyer with them, but they meet in a much more informal setting. Before meeting with one another, each party meets with their attorney privately to discuss their wants, their needs, what they’re willing to negotiate on, and what they’re not willing to negotiate on. The two parties then meet to discuss and negotiate the terms of the divorce.

Collaborative divorce is usually pursued when the divorcing couple is on amicable terms and they both agreed to the divorce. Avoiding a stressful court battle keeps these parties on amicable terms and makes the negotiation process much smoother. A collaborative divorce is much quicker and less expensive than traditional divorce, and it allows for better communication between both parties.

Once an agreement is reached, each party signs a “no court” agreement, which means that neither party can change their minds about the terms of the agreement and pursue a court battle.

When Traditional Divorce is a Better Option

Not all married couples split on amicable terms. When there’s contention and anger between the two parties, collaboration is usually not possible. In addition, sometimes only one spouse wants a divorce. In these cases, pursuing a traditional divorce is hard enough; a collaborative divorce is virtually impossible.

Traditional divorce may also be required if the two parties share older children. The courts may require that the children are given the opportunity to discuss openly which parent they’d prefer to live with. Even if the court ultimately decides that a custody arrangement that goes against the child’s wishes is better, this open and honest discussion with the child is important.

If there’s a large amount of money and/or property shared between the two parties, this may also prompt the parties to settle the divorce in court. Money is one of the biggest stressors in a marriage, and it often leads to the most contention in a divorce. Alimony, property division, and child support may take a long time to determine.

And of course, if a couple fails to reach an agreement through collaborative divorce, a court battle will be necessary. Sometimes, there’s just no way to make both people happy, so a judge must determine what happens to the children, money, and property involved.


Both kinds of divorce may ultimately require a mediator. In a collaborative divorce, if an agreement can’t be reached on a certain issue, a mediator is often brought in. A mediator is a professional who is experienced in helping people arrive at an appropriate compromise. There are even mediators who specialize specifically in issues regarding children since these are often the most emotional issues. Bringing in a mediator may prevent the need for a court battle.

In a traditional divorce, the two parties may ultimately decide that mutual compromise is better than continuing with a stressful court battle. Even if the judge has already ruled on certain issues pertaining to the divorce, the parties may be able to figure out the remaining details themselves.

If you’re about to go through a divorce, contact Attorney Alison Grant to schedule a consultation. She’ll help you decide whether traditional or collaborative divorce is going to be better in your case and then help you begin the divorce process.