Collaborative divorce or practice is a solution-oriented approach to resolving disputes. It is a process which seeks to prevent the trauma often experienced by parties in a traditional divorce. This is accomplished through negotiation focusing on parties’ interests rather than competing positions. Each party retains a Collaborative attorney trained in interest-based negotiation and mediation. Each attorney acts as an advocate for their respective client, just as in a traditional divorce. However, instead of adopting competing positions, the attorneys help their clients in identifying and advancing their own interests and in developing options that work for both parties.
Collaborative divorce focuses on settlement, transparency on all issues, and resolving disputes respectfully without litigation. Collaborative divorce encourages cooperation and is private, cost-efficient, and client-oriented. It can have long lasting effects for the entire family, especially children, who benefit from their parents’ choice to separate peacefully with a workable structure in place for future co-parenting.
At the outset of the Collaborative process, the parties and their attorneys sign a Participation Agreement agreeing that if the process does not result in a settlement, both attorneys must withdraw as counsel. While this may appear to be a risk, it is also an incentive for the parties to stay at the table and continue to negotiate. In addition, because Collaborative divorce utilizes a team approach, the parties have the option of agreeing to the hiring of neutral professionals also trained in the Collaborative model, (ie, forensic accountants, child specialists and divorce coaches), to assist them in communicating and reaching resolution. The parties are free to terminate the process at any time. If they continue to negotiate in good faith with the support and assistance of the team to achieve a resolution, it is often more lasting and durable than a court imposed resolution because it was self-determined. Often parties end up back in court because the outcome of their divorce was decided by a judge with little time or inclination to truly get to know their family and its particular needs and concerns.
Other Members of the Collaborative Team
These neutral professionals are available, if necessary, to work with clients in resolving their differences and assist in crafting workable solutions to often contentious issues.
Divorce coaches are trained mental-health professionals who help reduce conflict and facilitate communication between clients. They also work individually with parties to help them manage emotions, make well-reasoned decisions and establish a post-divorce relationship that benefits the whole family. Parties often get bogged down by emotions and have the tendency to revisit past history, often impeding progress in negotiations. Divorce coaches are able to recognize when this is happening and help parties to focus on the task at hand. Their role in the process is not as therapist but as facilitator.
Financial neutrals are Certified Divorce Financial Planners who gather all of the parties’ pertinent financial information and help them come up with a financial roadmap for their future. Often, one party in the divorce is less informed about the family finances. A financial neutral will assist in educating that party and present the financial information and projections in an understandable format.
Child specialists are therapists with experience and training in working with children. They are the voice of the child, helping parents better understand their child’s needs, and assist in creating a structure or parenting plan for future co-parenting. They can also help parents explain the divorce/separation to the child(ren).
Margaret Nicholson is an experienced Collaborative divorce attorney specifically trained in the Collaborative model. Based on her commitment to providing an alternative framework for settlement, Collaborative Divorce and Mediation have become a primary focus of her law practice. Contact her today to see if the Collaborative Divorce approach is right for you. Serving Westchester County, NY, and surrounding communities, she can be reached at (914) 669-5224 or via email.