1. What is Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative Divorce is a new way to help families who are in the midst of separation or divorce, to resolve the issues between them, using a collaborative process
It is new and unique because a commitment is made in the negotiation that :
- Negotiations will be principled, dignified and respectful
- Issues will be resolved without going to Court or threatening Court Action, even though each party has their own attorney representing their interests
- Both sides will exchange all important information
- The parties will be assisted in exploring as many options for settlement as possible
- The attorneys and other professionals (if needed and agreed to) will help the parties to reach a settlement that best meets their goals and priorities.
2. What types of family issues can be resolved using the collaborative process?
Virtually all separation issues can benefit from the Collaborative Divorce process including issues concerning child custody and visitation, spousal and child support, property division, issues related to the family home and changes to existing arrangements.
3. What is a ‘Participation Agreement?’
The Participation Agreement is a contract signed by the parties and their collaborative professional team committing to work out a settlement without going to court. If it turns out that court is necessary because the dispute between the parties cannot be resolved in a collaborative divorce negotiation, all of the collaborative professionals must resign from the case. This represents an incentive for the attorneys to successfully conclude the negotiation, or lose the matter.
4. How does a Collaborative Divorce negotiation work?
The professionals (attorneys, and if required a parenting coach or a therapist or a financial specialist) work as a team with the parties to explore options and choices for settlement.
Negotiations take place with both the parties present. The professionals act as facilitators and role models for constructive communication and they provide advice to the parties. They will help keep the discussions between the parties focused on the problems and help to find creative solutions. An added benefit may be that the professionals will assist you to improve your listening, communication and negotiation skills you will need to cultivate as co-parents going forward.
In addition experts may be retained by the parties to assist them during the process. For example accountants, property valuators or business valuators, depending on the needs of the parties, may be retained for their special knowledge.
In a Collaborative Divorce negotiation, both parties must make full honest disclosure of finances and other important facts that are necessary to make informed decisions.
If there are issues concerning children the parents and the collaborative professionals commit to finding solutions that cater for the best interests of the children.
If there are financial issues, a financial specialist will assist the parties to gather the necessary financial information and consider the impact of various settlement options, so that everyone understands , even the financially illiterate party.
Divorce or family coaches help the parties work through the emotional issues inherent in every separation. They will help the parties understand and respect the emotional rollercoaster of separation while also helping them develop strategies so that their emotional issues will not interfere with the settlement process.
5. What if my spouse does not make the disclosure he/she promises in the Participation Agreement?
If one of the spouses refuses to make proper disclosure, the collaborative professionals are required by the Participation Agreement to withdraw from the case. This provides very strong incentive to both spouses to honour their promises.
6. My spouse and I do not communicate at all. How can we use this process if we can’t talk to each other?
It is fairly typical for separated spouses to have serious communication problems. A Divorce Coach can be enlisted to coach each client individually about new ways to communicate with his/her spouse and strategies to get through negotiations. Furthermore the negotiations will be in the presence of some or all of the professionals (the Attorneys or Parenting coach or financial specialist) who will help you through the rough spots and defuse the conflict.
7. Can all attorneys be Collaborative Divorce attorneys?
If a Collaborative Divorce negotiation is going to be successful, it is important that both attorneys have an understanding of and commitment to the principles of the collaborative process. Each attorney has to have taken specialized training in the process. Not all attorneys have experience with the concept or have received training. The Collaborative Network has attorneys ready and available from different firms in the network to collaborate in your matter.
8. How does Collaborative Divorce differ from mediation?
In mediation, you are on your own. The mediator is a neutral person who assists the parties to work out a settlement. The mediator does not act for either party and cannot provide legal advice or even express an opinion. In a typical family mediation, the clients attend the mediation without their attorneys but are advised to seek legal advice. At the end of the mediation, the attorneys create a separate agreement signed by both parties reflecting the terms negotiated.
In a Collaborative Divorce negotiation a team of professionals are helping you work through the issues in a cost efficient manner. Each attorney will ensure his/her client is provided with legal advice about the issues throughout the process. The professionals work as a team to guide the parties every step of the way to the best settlement possible for the whole family. Once an agreement is reached, the attorneys create a separation agreement signed by both parties which reflects the agreement reached. In the collaborative process, you are not on your own- you have a team supporting you.
9. What if final settlement is not reached using the Collaborative Divorce process?
There is no guarantee that the Collaborative Divorce process will resolve every issue, although with a commitment to the process, most Collaborative Divorce negotiations are successful.
10. Can one of the parties withdraw from the Collaborative Divorce process at any time?
The process is voluntary and either party may withdraw at any time. There may also be circumstances when one of the attorneys must resign, for example, if it is discovered that a client is hiding important information during the process.
11. How much does a Collaborative divorce negotiation cost?
Each of the parties will be responsible for paying the fees of his or her own attorney. At the Collaborative Network, all our attorneys charge the same hourly rate. In addition (with your consent) other professionals such as parenting coaches, divorce coaches or financial specialists may be retained. These professionals will also have a cost. The expense of a Collaborative Divorce negotiation will vary depending on the complexity of the issues and the time needed to resolve them. Typically, the process will cost significantly less than going to court.
12. Won’t it cost more with this team approach than if I retain a traditional attorney to negotiate or go to court?
The team approach is very cost effective. In the traditional approach, often each party retains experts who may disagree.
In the traditional approach, the client’s emotions often hamper and delay the process. In the Collaborative Divorce process clients receive the emotional support they need to so they are in the best possible position to negotiate for themselves.
In the traditional approach , each party retains a attorney (who usually does not have special training in the developmental needs of children)to help them resolve parenting issues. In the Collaborative Divorce process, a single parenting coach with expertise in the developmental needs of children will help the parties develop a parenting plan.
In a traditional approach, each party retains a attorney to collect and exchange financial documentation. In the CD Process, a single financial specialist with special training will help collect the disclosure and will explore the impact of various settlement options with the parties.
The cost of retaining one professional to assist you will be significantly less than paying two competing professionals or two attorneys to negotiate or litigate the issues. Further with the help of professionals you will reach a better agreement than a court imposed one.
In the end you will likely save money and reach a better agreement.
13. What do you do after you decide Collaborative Divorce is the right process for you?
Once you decide that Collaborative Divorce negotiation is the right process for you, you should discuss this option with your spouse. Collaborative Divorce negotiation can only take place if both parties agree.
14. Why should I choose Collaborative Divorce?
By choosing Collaborative Divorce you ensure that the arrangement reached between you and your spouse will be designed by you, with the guidance and legal advice of your Collaborative Divorce attorney and other professionals with special training.
You will be able to achieve a settlement in a respectful, creative and cost effective manner. You will achieve a long lasting, fair arrangement in a dignified manner. Simply put it’s the best way to resolve separation issues for you and your family.