On the surface, collaborative divorce sound like a peaceful, friendly way to end your marriage, without the cost and aggravation of litigation. Spouses meet together in a private location and work through the issues in their divorce with assistance from their attorneys. The process is about cooperation, communication and trust, rather than hardball negotiations and legal action. The same approach is expected of the attorneys, who assist their clients in reaching a settlement, rather than aggressively fighting for individual interests. In most cases, spouses call on other divorce professionals such as accountants, psychologists and divorce coaches for advice on complex financial or emotional issues.
It makes sense to seek a non-adversarial approach to divorce in favor of traditional litigation. With that as a given, it may surprise you to know that collaborative divorce is still a relatively underused divorce option. The reasons why are varied, but one concern is the consequence of quitting the collaborative process, mainly the need to hire a new attorney should you wish to proceed with litigation. For the average divorcing couple, the idea of wasting money on attorneys who have to withdraw in the middle of a case, plus the hassle of starting over with new attorneys is unappealing on many levels.
Speaking of money, the idea that collaborative divorce is cheaper than litigation is more or less true. The problem is that it may end up being more expensive than you thought depending on the experts that may need to be engaged. You are, after all, trying to agree on a wide range of issues, including custody, financial support and the division of marital assets and liabilities. Specific aspects of these issues are incredibly complicated, so it's important to work with facts and accurate evaluations, since your agreement is legally binding. Another consideration is the need to engage experts in order to prove or support your position. Thus, even if you are not interested in hiring a certain professional, you may have to in consideration of your spouse's feelings.
Consideration of your spouse, by the way, is something that can work against you in this process. Most marriages have one spouse who is clearly more dominant than the other, or has the upper hand in decision making. One spouse may also have more financial or legal knowledge, which gives them the advantage of making proposals that the other one finds hard to refute. This is easier to do than you think, since there is no discovery – the process of exchanging documents and information – in the collaborative process. In essence, you are going on blind faith, which is a pretty big risk considering how a divorce settlement effects the rest of your life. As you can see, it's imperative that you understand the pros and cons of each divorce process before deciding on how you want to dissolve your marriage. For more information on your divorce rights and legal options, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.