Collaborative Divorce

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I paid my attorney over $100,000 and still got a settlement that doesn't give me enough money to live on. From a client in Brooklyn, NY

This is a story I have been told by many clients who have gone through the process of traditional divorce litigation. Don't let this be your story!! Learn how the Collaborative Divorce process can help you avoid the mistake of costly litigation that uses up your assets and creates emotional turmoil.

Collaborative Divorce
A New and Better Way

Collaborative Divorce is a new and better way for couples to divorce. The heart of the Collaborative process is that both spouses have the support, protection and guidance of their own lawyers, mental health practitioners and financial professionals without going to court. Your divorce team is committed to working together cooperatively utilizing problem-solving strategies rather than conflict and litigation. The Collaborative process can be particularly valuable when you need to work out difficult parenting issues, you have a complex financial or tax situation, you and your spouse have communication problems or you both want to avoid costly and emotionally damaging litigation.

How Does Collaborative Divorce Work?
The Collaborative Divorce Team Gives You Support and Advice

In Collaborative Divorce, both spouses retain their own attorneys who provide legal advice and support. In addition, jointly selected experts such as child psychologists, financial planners and divorce coaches join the team as needed. To insure that the divorce team is committed to working out a fair settlement and will not benefit financially if the process fails, they sign a contract stating that, if an agreement is not reached, they will withdraw from the process and not participate in the future litigation.

The Collaborative Divorce Team is flexible and may include all or some of the following professionals:

  • Family law attorneys facilitate settlement discussions, provide legal advice and write settlement agreements. Each spouse has their own attorney who represents their best interests while maintaining the overall goals of the Collaborative process.
  • Financial planners are neutral and support both parties. They document and organize financial data, look at the immediate and long-term effects of settlement proposals and develop strategies to minimize taxes and maximize post-divorce cash flow. Financial professionals provide ongoing support, practical financial guidance and planning and budgeting advice throughout the divorce process which may include educating a spouse who is less knowledgeable financially.
  • Divorce coaches are licensed mental health professionals who work to improve communication, reduce misunderstandings and resolve conflicts. The coach's work is limited and does not take the place of individual therapy.
  • Child specialists are the voice of the children. They express the children's concerns regarding how the divorce will affect them and help develop a co-parenting plan.

Why is Collaborative Divorce a Better Alternative to Traditional Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce differs from traditional "adversarial divorce" in that the divorcing couple and their attorneys practice cooperative "win-win" strategies rather than engaging in conflict and litigation. Typically, divorce is confrontational, costly and time-consuming and often leads to family tensions and hostility. Resolution generally occurs more than a year after filing, following many hurtful events and great expense. Ultimately, the traditional divorce process takes on a life of its own, controlled by lawyers who measure success by who won and by how much. In the Collaborative process, couples negotiate their own divorce agreement with the help of their divorce team. At the same time they learn skills for effective communication, on-going conflict resolution and co-parenting that will help after divorce.

When is Collaborative Divorce Better than Mediation?

In Mediation, a neutral third party meets with the couple to facilitate divorce negotiations. Mediators are trained to resolve issues between divorcing spouses, but some situations make successful mediation problematic. Issues that often derail mediation include imbalances in power, knowledge or negotiating ability of the spouses; poor communication; child custody issues or complicated financial or tax situations. A Collaborative Divorce Team is able to bring together the right combination of expertise to resolve many issues.

Benefits of Collaborative Divorce
Lower Cost/ Less Conflict and Stress

Collaborative divorce results in a negotiated settlement without costly court filings and conflict that accompany traditional methods. Statistics show that the cost of Collaborative Divorce is 50% of traditional divorce. A divorce process in which both spouses are working together in a problem solving mode is bound to be less stressful and hurtful than adversarial "win it all" litigation.

Settlement That Best Meets Everyone's Needs

In Collaborative Divorce, the divorcing couple is able to define their own settlement with the assistance of their divorce team and avoid the arbitrary and uncertain outcome of a court-ordered decision. Free from constraints of the court, divorcing spouses can negotiate a customized settlement that best meets their needs as well as those of the children.

Support, Protection and Guidance

The Collaborative process offers each party the support, protection and guidance of his or her own matrimonial attorney without going to court. Additionally, each party benefits from financial specialists helping to make decisions on money and tax issues, divorce coaches building better communication issues and a child specialist working with the children.

Financial Planning Avoiding Costly Mistakes

Financial issues in divorce are complex and the decisions a couple makes as part of the divorce process are probably the most important fiscal decisions that they will make in their lifetime. On the Collaborative Divorce Team the financial professional is a neutral who works with both spouses. He organizes and documents financial information to gain understanding agreement of basic financial facts. If one spouse is less financially savvy, a financial planner can coach that spouse to keep negotiations on an equal footing. During negotiations, a financial planner can assess the budgetary and tax impact of different scenarios, project needs 5 and 10 year in the future and develop workable solutions.

Fair Disclosure

Each party as well as the divorce professionals agrees to honest and open disclosure of all documents and information so all the facts are on the table building trust in the process and making it easier to find a solution. In Collaborative Divorce neither spouse can take advantage of an inadvertent mistake made by the other.

Insulating Children

As part of the process, participants agree to insulate children from the proceeding and minimize the impact of the divorce on them. Not holding children hostages of the divorce process makes it easier for them to accept the divorce and less likely that they will face long-term ill effects.

Sharing Experts

In the Collaborative process parties jointly hire neutral outside experts who are not associated with either party (e.g. real estate appraisers, business appraisers, parenting consultants, vocational evaluators). This reduces cost and conflict associated with dueling experts and allows each spouse to have confidence in the result.

Stress, Anxiety and Emotional Issues of Divorce

Divorce can be one of the most destructive and emotionally painful events a person ever goes through. The Collaborative process reduces stress and anxiety so that participants are able to focus on solving problems and moving on. Collaborative Divorce reduces stress by recognizing and addressing emotional issues, working on communication problems and allowing parties to have control over the process.

Collaborative Ground Rules
Collaborative Guidelines For Parents
Collaborative NY Times
Collaborative Participation Agmt
Collaborative Planning for a Good Outcome

Serving the New York Metro Area. Lee Slater + Associates, 208 East Broadway, New York, NY 10002. (212) 477-6951