Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Law (commonly known as Collaborative Divorce) is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that was developed in the late 1980s in Minnesota. Since then the practice has spread to all 50 states, as well as to other countries including Canada, England, Ireland, and Australia.

The primary goal of the Collaborative Divorce process is to settle outstanding issues in a non-adversarial manner. This process aims to minimize, if not eliminate, the negative economic, social, and emotional consequences of protracted litigation on spouses and their children.

Some of the principles of Collaborative Divorce are:

  1. The spouses seeking a divorce agree not to pursue divorce through litigation, and  instead, agree to resolve their divorce in a non-threatening, respectful, non-adversarial manner.
  2. The spouses and their attorneys agree to act in good faith and focus on needs and interests rather than “positions” in the divorce.
  3. The couple and their respective attorneys work as a team to craft a settlement that both parties feel is fair and equitable to themselves and each other.
  4. The parties and their attorneys may agree to engage other collaborative professionals such as a child specialist, divorce coach, and/or a financial specialist who are trained to help support the parties in their Collaborative Divorce.

For example, having a Divorce Coach on the team may help individuals uncouple their former, dysfunctional relationship by helping them process the emotional part of the break-up and build the skills they need to create a respectful divorce and move on with their lives.

A Child Specialist can help parents develop a parenting plan that is in their children’s best interests. Often, the Child Specialist will meet with the parents’’ children in order to assist with drafting a parenting plan that is in the children’s best interests.

A Financial Specialist can calculate many different financial scenarios to show the divorcing couple what their financial options are.

A Family Specialist performs the same functions as Divorce Coach and a Child Specialist.  A Family Specialist might be appropriate to use in low or moderate conflict cases.

An Eldercare Specialist may be useful when issues with aging, quality care, costs, or short- or long-term care options are concerned.

How Does Collaborative Divorce Work?

A Collaborative Divorce is done in a series of meetings that focus on identifying and prioritizing issues to be discussed and resolved. All participants freely exchange all relevant information, generate and discuss options, and strive to problem-solve that ultimately reaches resolution and a full settlement of the divorce.

Experienced Assistance in Collaborative Divorce

The Levey Law Group is experienced in all forms of ADR and will work with you to determine which method best suits your needs. In Collaborative Divorce, the key to success is the willingness of all parties and their attorneys to commit to the process. The Levey Law Group has met the stringent standards involving additional training in the practice of Collaborative Divorce. To learn if Collaborative Divorce offers an appropriate solution to your family law dispute, please call us.

Changes to tax law may impact your divorce strategy

If you are considering divorce this year, you may want to be aware of a change to the tax law set to take effect next year. This tax law change will impact divorce finances, and spouses who may be eyeing alimony as a component of their divorce settlement.

Federal income tax laws surrounding alimony or spousal maintenance will change in 2019 due to the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” which both houses of Congress passed on Dec. 20, 2017.  While this change won’t take place until 2019, couples may want to consider those changes with regard to their divorce strategy now. It may mean working toward being divorced in 2018, before the law changes. Your strategy depends on the specifics of your case and how changes to that law might affect you.

For the last 75 years, alimony was deductible for the payer, while the recipient paid income tax on it. For all divorces after Dec. 31, 2018, alimony will no longer be deductible for the payer, and the recipient of alimony will no longer be required to pay income tax on alimony.

For example, a man who earns $500,000 a year and is in the top tax bracket may decide to pay his ex-wife $100,000 a year in alimony. After a tax break, that will only cost him about $50,000. The ex-wife would receive the $100,000, but is left with $75,000 after taxes. In 2019, the ex-husband may argue that he can only afford $50,000 a year in alimony. So, the ex-wife would then get that $50,000 which is $25,000 less that she would have under the old law.

Divorce attorneys and financial analysts are still scrambling to better understand the changes to this law that’s been in the tax code since 1942. Many attorneys and mediators fear the potential impact of this change and predict more cases could go to court, divorces may become messier,  more people may be forced to stay married due to the expense, and more couples may rush to get their divorces finalized in 2018 so they can still take advantage of the old law.

One expert believes the new law reduces the bargaining power of vulnerable spouses, mostly women, in achieving financial stability after a divorce. The U.S. Census Bureau shows that 98 percent of the 243,000 individuals who receive alimony or spousal maintenance in 2017 were women.

If you are considering divorce and the prospect of alimony, call our office at 253-272-9459 and make an appointment to discuss what we’ve learned about this new tax law.

Uniform Collaborative Law Act

Despite the potentially acrimonious and contentious nature of family law cases (such as divorce), the majority of these cases settle out of court. Collaborative Law (often referred to as Collaborative Divorce) is one way that the parties–typically spouses who are divorcing–now are settling their cases. Collaborative Law is a non-adversarial process by which the spouses—among other things–agree to the following:

  1. Not to litigate; and
  2. Work together amicably to create solutions for the issues in their case

In Collaborative Law, each spouse has his/her own attorney.  The “Team” (collectively, the parties and attorneys) might also agree to hire other professionals who have been trained in Collaborative Law such as financial experts to help resolve the financial issues, and “child specialists”—counselors to help draft a parenting plan when the spouses have minor children.

In May 2013, Washington passed the Uniform Collaborative Law Act. This law recognizes the importance and potential benefits of Collaborative Law. The law also provides requirements, rules, and responsibilities for those spouses who agree to participate in the Collaborative Law process. One requirement it creates is that at the outset of the process, both parties and their attorneys must sign a Participation Agreement. The Participation Agreement also states that in the event the process is not successful, the spouses must both then get different attorneys to represent them in court.

The law also provides that the process is confidential. This means that neither spouse nor any of the professionals involved in the process may be called to provide testimony should the Collaborative Divorce process fail. The purpose of this provision is to make sure that the spouses feel free to openly discuss proposals and facts without fear that these proposals could backfire should the Collaborative Divorce process fail.

However, depending on the nature of the documents exchanged and disclosed during the Collaborative Divorce process, those documents could become public should the Collaborative Divorce process fail and the parties proceed to litigation.

A court cannot require the parties to submit to the collaborative process if either party objects. Further, a court cannot mandate that a party remain in the process of the party wants to terminate the Collaborative Divorce process. Either spouse may end the process at any time.

Collaborative Divorce can be a wonderful method for spouses to use to bring their divorce to a quicker, less acrimonious, and less costly resolution than many other methods of resolving a divorce. We have extensive experience with this process and are ready to answer your questions. Call us today at (253) 272-9459 for an appointment to talk about your case.

Tips for Settling Your Divorce

We all know that divorce can take a long time and can be expensive. You and your spouse can have your resources drained and end the process exhausted, both emotionally and financially. Luckily divorce does not have to end that way. Most divorces end in settlement, and it is easy to understand why once you are in the middle of a divorce case. No one wants a long, drawn out case, and it is better for you and your spouse if you can come to an agreement.

A settlement will let you help make big decisions about your future. Decisions like who will pay which debt, who will the kids live with, and what will happen to the house, for example, are all decisions that can be made by settling. Having a good settlement will let you keep some control over your divorce and your life. For many divorcing couples, coming to a settlement agreement is the best and quickest way to end a divorce.

Resolving your divorce through mediation is a tried and true method of resolving all of the issues in your divorce. A mediator is a neutral third party who helps guide you through the process and get to a final agreement.

Collaborative divorce is another excellent solution. Collaborative divorce lets both you and your spouse have specially-trained attorneys along with other family law professionals all come together and hammer out a settlement agreement that works for your family. Even if you and your spouse don’t find common ground on all the issues, mediation or collaborative divorce can help you and your spouse learn to communicate in a more peaceful way.

Keeping a cool head is very important. Divorce is definitely a tough time and emotions run high, but try your hardest not to get angry when you are discussing divorce issues with your spouse. Anger will not solve the over-all problems and will probably just hurt your chances of getting to a final settlement. Sometimes this may mean stepping away from a conversation and taking time to cool down. Divorce is a long process, and making snap decisions is not a good idea, especially if you are making decisions or comments in the heat of the moment.

Try to remember that divorce is a marathon, not a sprint. The legal process is long and takes time. Even the shortest of cases are measured in months and not days. Don’t feel like you have to rush into a settlement and get things done right away. Your divorce decree may affect your life for many years to come. This is especially true when you and your spouse have children together. Think through your issues and goals, and review any settlement offer with your lawyer before making any decisions.

Finally, try to make good decisions about your line in the sand, and what issues are truly important to you. Getting the sofa or an end table may seem really vital to you right now, but remember that for what you pay your lawyer to fight your spouse over a piece of furniture, you could probably buy a new piece of furniture. Keeping in mind the things and issues that are actually important – things like child custody or long term financial decisions – will help guide you on what is worth sacrificing and what is worth standing your ground on.

Our attorneys are trained in all methods of dispute resolution, including collaborative divorce. We have extensive experience in guiding clients to a settlement that helps them in their future life. Contact us today at (253) 272-9459 for an appointment.

Is Collaborative Law Right for My Case?

Collaborative law is a very useful tool to resolve many types of family law cases. The process is specifically designed to provide an atmosphere of cooperation to eliminate the typical atmosphere of “us versus them” that is common in family disputes. Although commonly associated with divorce, collaborative law can be used to help resolve many types of family law disputes. Child support, child custody/parenting plan modifications, relocation, or post-divorce alimony modification can all benefit from the collaborative process. Collaborative law is good for a case when the parties are willing to engage in respectful and open discussions about their situation.

Collaborative law is also useful where the parties are committed to creating an agreement that is tailor-made for their particular situation. Parties to a divorce, for example, are often in the best position to have a complete and comprehensive understanding of their assets and debts. As such, it is easier and faster for spouses to come together to make a fair and sensible division.

Furthermore, parents are in the best position to make the determination on what would work best for their children. This often means that parents should put aside conflict to craft a parenting schedule that is based on their children’s specific needs, schedules, and personalities. Another benefit to using collaborative law in cases involving children is that it helps keep parental conflict to a minimum. Children are often deeply affected by such conflict, and any chance to eliminate turbulence or instability for the family is in the children’s best interest. Basically, any time parties want to come together to craft a unique and customized solution for their case, collaborative law is a good option.

In order for the process to work, both parties must be willing and ready to participate in collaborative law. Because collaborative law is premised on the idea that both parties provide information and work together, this cannot be done if one or both of the parties refuses to cooperate. So before you settle on collaborative divorce, honestly evaluate whether you believe you and the other party are able to set aside the emotional difficulties attached to your case and honestly work together.

Choosing collaborative law is a highly personal decision. Ken Levey is experienced and specially trained in collaborative law and can help you decide if it is right for your case. Contact us at (253) 272-9459, or email us at info@kleveylaw.com.