Collaborative Divorce

Read my published academic article on collaborative divorce and watch the video below to learn how it works!

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Collaborative Divorce

The Antidote for Ugly Divorce

Watch this video summary of Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Practice

Resolving Disputes Respectfully

View the interactive brochure below (click on the bottom of the page corner to turn each page).

What is it?

Collaborative Divorce is a legal process for resolving divorce and family law disputes. Separations, marital property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support issues can be handled through the Collaborative Process. Collaborative Divorce is the process of resolving the legal issues of a divorce through Collaborative Law.

Is it encouraged by North Carolina Courts?

Collaborative Divorce is established, regulated and protected by North Carolina law (it is a “statutory process”, in legalese). Sections 70 through 82 of Chapter 50 of North Carolina’s statutes provide the legal requirements for lawyers, judges, and parties involved in the Collaborative Process. North Carolina’s judges will put a case on hold for people who want to resolve their dispute collaboratively.

How does it work?

The Collaborative Law process involves the parties and their family law attorneys working together to resolve their divorce or family law conflict outside of court. Collaborative Divorce involves the following steps: 1. Information Gathering: This involves assembling and reviewing financial information and information about children’s’ needs. 2. Identifying the parties’ interests and needs: This involves identifying what each party truly needs in order to move forward, including financial, parenting and scheduling needs. 3. Brainstorming potential resolutions: Both parties and attorneys discuss possible solutions together. 4. Selecting resolutions: Possible solutions are evaluated and eliminated until the best solutions are identified. 5. Executing a legal agreement: This can take the form of a binding Separation Agreement, parenting plan or other agreement that formalizes the agreed resolution.

Do I have to go to court?

No. Collaborative Divorce takes place outside of court. In fact, the attorneys must agree that they will not represent their client in court. This ensures that everybody is invested in making the process work. And the attorneys cannot gain financially by pushing their clients to file a lawsuit.

Do I need a family law attorney?

Yes. Collaborative Law involves the use of an attorney by each party. That attorney represents and advises their client in the process. Attorneys should have advanced specialized training to participate in a Collaborative Law case.

How is it different than mediation or going to court?

The heart of the process is the Collaborative Agreement. This is a written agreement that the clients and the attorneys sign. The agreement requires each party to be honest, to play fair, to not hide information, to be respectful towards the other party and to cooperate in resolving the legal issues at hand. Mediation and litigation do not offer these assurances. The process itself involves a series of face-to-face conferences with both parties and their attorneys. The sessions typically last a couple of hours. The early sessions are used to gather necessary financial, scheduling, or other information needed to identify issues. They are also used to identify the needs and interests of the parties so that everyone knows what issues have to be addressed.

Why is it a different kind of negotiation?

A unique aspect of Collaborative Divorce is that it is based on addressing the interests of the parties, instead of the demands of the parties. This is called “interest based” negotiation, as opposed to position based negotiation. You may have read about interest based negotiation in the book GETTING TO YES. Interest based negotiation allows the parties to identify the reasons behind a party’s demands. Addressing and satisfying these interests leads to better, faster, more enduring and more effective resolutions.

What is interest based negotiation?

The best example of interest based negotiation is the Orange Auction game. In this game, the players are buyers at an auction of oranges. Unbeknownst to each other, each player only needs one part of the orange; one needs the peel, one needs the juice, and one needs the seeds. So, no one needs the whole orange. However, everybody thinks that they need all of the oranges. As the game plays out, the players bid higher and higher amounts in an effort to secure what they think they need. Then, eventually, one of the players thinks to ask why the other players need the oranges. Only then do the players realize that they can split the oranges and each get what they need, while paying less and spending less time at the auction. In terms of Collaborative Divorce, the lesson is that you can only really get everybody what they want if you find out what they really need. Instead of focusing on everybody’s threats and positions (e.g. “I want the house”, “I want sole custody”), the parties and attorneys focus on the parties’ needs (e.g. “I need somewhere to live”, “I want to protect my relationship with the kids”).

Do I still get a Separation Agreement?

The end result of a Collaborative Law case is the same as any other domestic case that is settled outside of court; the parties reach and sign a Separation Agreement, Co-Parenting Agreement or other written agreement that resolves the issues.

What are some other advantages of Collaborative Divorce?

1. Custom Tailored Resolutions: The process allows the parties to agree to solutions that are not available in court. Judges are strictly limited by the laws of their state when making decisions. These laws are “one size fits all” solutions. However, the parties are free to adopt solutions in the Collaborative Law process that a judge is not allowed to order. These solutions are tailor made for you and your family’s particular needs and situation. 2. Protection of Children: Perhaps the most important benefit of Collaborative Law is the preservation of the co-parenting relationship. For parties that have children together, becoming enemies is not an option. Once parents become enemies, they lose the ability to effectively parent their children. And, tremendous damage is inflicted on their kids. Collaborative Law preserves and even strengthens the co-parenting relationship by teaching the parties to communicate in a respectful, effective manner. Litigation and lawsuits simply encourage yelling at each other while standing behind a lawyer.

What’s the bottom line on Collaborative Divorce?

The bottom line is that Collaborative Law is generally faster, cheaper, more dignified and more effective than going to court. If you want to effectively resolve your family law issues in less time, for less cost and with less emotional trauma to everyone involved, then you owe it to yourself to contact a Collaborative Law attorney in your area to find out more.