Most of us like to make our own important life decisions. We may seek help from qualified professionals in reaching those decisions, but the ultimate decision is our own. Yet when our marriage disintegrates, we may think we have no choice other than to place significant decisions impacting our families for many future years in the hands of a single judge in the family law court. Our adversarial family law court system contemplates that one spouse will “win” on an issue like alimony or timesharing and the other spouse will accordingly “lose” on that issue. It doesn’t have to be like this.
Collaborative divorce views divorce as a process in which both spouses agree to stay out of court and to work together toward achieving the goals of both divorcing parties. This commitment to staying out of court is contractual, actually requiring both parties to hire new attorneys should the divorce end up in litigation.
Collaborative divorce is a team approach where both parties are represented by their own respective attorneys, and other professionals, commonly a financial expert and a mental health expert, are included on the team to guide both parties through the process. Because the parties agree to cooperate, the high financial costs and the high stress of a litigated divorce can be avoided.
Unlike public family law court proceedings, collaborative divorces are completely private, with meetings scheduled at the convenience of both parties and team members. Both parties voluntarily provide each other with all needed financial disclosure. The safe and private environment offered by the collaborative process keeps sensitive family issues, personal information and financial information out of public files.
Most importantly to many of us, the collaborative divorce process keeps the parties, not a judge, in charge of the divorce outcome. Your collaborative team will work as a unit to help both parties make important decisions. Judges are limited by legal guidelines in resolving disputed divorce issues. In a collaborative divorce, the parties and the parties’ team are free to adopt creative solutions that meet the particular needs of the parties and their families.
Jeanne Coleman is a trained collaborative lawyer and a member of the Next Generation Divorce, a group of collaborative professionals in the Tampa Bay area. She has practiced family law locally for over twenty-five years. Call her law office today for a consultation to determine if your divorce is a suitable candidate for the collaborative divorce process.