Where do you Turn Once You Need a Grand Rapids Divorce Lawyer?
Divorce comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s amicable and peaceful. Other times it’s heartbreaking and intense.
But when you ultimately come to that crossroads and you know it’s the best decision for you, your spouse and your family, there are a few things that even the most prepared people just don’t expect.
We spoke with Susan Keener, attorney and member of Collaborative Divorce Professionals of West Michigan about some of the things that clients are surprised by as they go through a divorce.
Who are Collaborative Divorce Professionals?
Collaborative Divorce Professionals of West Michigan is a collective of West Michigan professionals dedicated to helping local families navigate divorce in a respectful, diplomatic way. They range from divorce attorneys to mental health professionals to finance experts who come together to work for both spouses.
In this collaborative process, couples meet with a team of professionals and hammer out every little detail, until they finally create a legally binding agreement they both approve.
Susan Keener works with couples who seek a gentler divorce that preserves family relationships and respects all the people involved. Keener has specialized in family law for most of her 34 year career.
Did You Know These 4 Things About the Divorce Process?
Divorce is never easy, but it shouldn’t hold surprises. Here are four things Keener says surprise clients as they start the collaborative divorce process.
1 – YOU Have to do the Work!
Keener says that one big surprise for couples is that they have so much to do! I always thought that you’d simply hand your case and information over to a lawyer and let the experts take it from there.
“Professionals are there to guide the couple and explore different options and to make them aware of the law. But the client’s job is to figure out what the terms of the agreement should be,” Keener says.
In the collaborative process, the divorcing couple makes the decisions. It can be emotionally trying, but at the end of the day, all parties know they worked together to come up with something that was the best solution for everyone.
2 – The Law Isn’t Always Black and White
Every situation is different – different aged kids, different assets, different experiences! Keener says the court’s “cookie cutter” approach is one option, but it’s not the perfect solution for every family.
“We believe the parents who are in the situation probably know best what their family needs, and we really value them crafting their own agreement,” says Keener.
When you’ve worked through the collaborative process, you and the professionals around you decide what is best for your family situation.
How people interpret the law can vary, too. A judge finalizes every divorce in court, but each judge is different – and only human!
In a traditional divorce, the judge has authority to make decisions about your life. But what one judge decides may not be the same as another. In the collaborative process, you’ve already made the decisions and the judge trusts those agreements in most situations.
3 – Divorce is a Long Process
By the time you’ve decided to divorce, you’re already ready to have the process completed. The professionals at Collaborative Divorce know the road can feel long and exhausting so they work hard to make the process less frustrating.
From your first joint meeting in the collaborative process you are all working together to make decisions. The problem-solving starts immediately. On average, a couple meets every two weeks for 4-6 months to reach their legal agreement. Then there is another 60 days to finalize the process. But your time is well-invested. By the time you get to court, there is no need for a trial or hearing. The judge knows that you’ve already done all of the leg-work and thought through everything.
4 – Neutral Experts Aren’t an Option, They’re Essential
In a traditional divorce, couples each hire an attorney, and each of those attorneys hires a financial person and other experts. Information from one party may not make it to the other party.
In the collaborative process, couples and attorneys work with financial experts and mental health experts that are neutral; they work for both parties. All of the financial information is shared through one financial expert. Numbers don’t lie – especially if they account for all of the information.
The mental health experts also meet with everyone involved and help process the emotional stages of the divorce.
“Sometimes people think mental health experts are just for “crazy people.” But when they see the benefits they bring to help people deal with emotion and parenting plans, they realize how essential they are to the whole process,” Keener says.
A Peaceful Strategy for Divorce
If you can’t avoid divorce, there is a peaceful strategy for separating. Divorce doesn’t have to be a surprise or a battle. If you want to find out more about Collaborative divorce, you can visit their website at gentlerdivorce.com. What questions do you have about divorce? Have you had a divorce? What surprised you?