Collaborative divorce is designed to help the divorce process be smoother and less adversarial. Knowing what to expect from the process can help you decide whether your case is right for collaboration. First, you and your spouse must both agree to involve yourselves freely and honestly to the process. If both parties are not committed to working together to create a settlement, the process will not function as it is designed to do.
After you and your spouse have agreed to participate in collaborative divorce, you will both need an attorney. Your attorney needs to be specially trained in collaborative law. When you discuss your case with your attorney before collaboration begins, you should discuss your goals for settlement, the issues you are not willing to compromise on, as well as the areas where you are flexible.
The collaborative process often takes places over a series of several different meetings. These meetings typically will alternate between the lawyers’ offices. At the beginning of the process, you, your spouse, and your attorneys will all be required to sign an agreement that provides in the event that collaboration fails, both you and your spouse will be required to hire new attorneys.
Further, both you and your spouse will agree to participate in the process in good faith, and agree to exchange documents and information. This information includes such documents such as financial statements, retirement account information, or proof of income. This trade of information is necessary to ensure any settlement agreement is fair and complete. Your lawyer will tell you before the first meeting what documents you will need to prepare and bring.
Other professionals may be involved. Depending on the particular needs of your case, these professionals could be financial experts, child therapists, or counselors working with your or your spouse. These professionals can provide guidance to you, your spouse, and your attorneys as to realistic settlement options for your case.
For example, your financial advisor can provide expert advice on tax implications of dividing a retirement account, or your child’s therapist can give important feedback on how a particular parenting time agreement is likely to affect your child.
When you and your spouse reach a settlement, the attorneys will draw up a document memorializing your agreement. The settlement will ultimately be incorporated into a court order when your divorce is finalized. This is what makes your agreement enforceable in court, should you later need to seek the court’s assistance in making sure all of the parts of the agreement are fulfilled.