Overview of the Collaborative Divorce Process
“While collaborative divorce is not necessarily the ‘cheaper’ option, it is almost always the more efficient and cost-conscious approach,” says attorney Erica Wikander.
“A litigated divorce can spiral out of control very quickly, with a huge financial and emotional burden on the entire family…”
Step 1: Both spouses sign a collaborative contract
Once each spouse has retained a collaboratively-trained attorney and have agreed to use the Collaborative Process, they sign a contract, called a “participation agreement,” promising to commit to the process and resolve their disputes outside of court. Both attorneys as well as the other members of the team also sign the participation agreement.
Step 2: Connect with additional resources/specialists
In addition to each spouse having their own collaboratively-trained lawyer, CPD of West Michigan also connects their clients with divorce coach, financial specialist and child specialists. The divorce coach is a mental health professional who helps facilitates the meetings and intervene during difficult and emotional conversations.
The financial specialist is a neutral-financial expert who helps gather and organize the financial information as well as prepare budgets and balance sheets to help the couple reach agreements regarding division of their assets.
Child specialists (also mental health professionals) are added to the team if there are unique or sensitive child-related issues, and the couple wishes for their child(ren) to have a voice in the process.
Step 3: Begin bi-weekly team meetings
The clients, attorneys and divorce coach meet together, targeting for a two hour meeting, approximately every two weeks until a complete agreement is reached. Often, the other team members (financial specialists and child specialist) will be a part of the meeting, or those professionals will meet with the couple separately.
Some couples can reach a complete agreement after a few meetings, while other couples may need more time to come to a satisfactory agreement. No case is one size fits all – whether that is a litigated or collaborative divorce.
Step 4: File & Wait
Once a complete agreement is reached and paperwork is signed, the attorneys will then formally file for divorce in court. Since the couple has already reached a complete agreement, though, they can often avoid appearing in court for pre-trial conferences and other court-mandated procedures. Many judges, too, will waive the statutory six-month waiting period so the divorce can be finalized once 60 days has expired.
Step 5: Finalize
Just like a traditional litigated divorce, once the waiting period expires (or a judge agrees to waive it), a final judgment is entered, and you are divorced.
5 Advantages to Choosing a Collaborative Divorce
- Collaborative Divorce avoids a judge making decisions about your family; the clients can reach a settlement that reflects their priorities and meets their individual needs;
- Collaborative Divorce uses good-faith interest-based negotiations and constructive problem-solving;
- The Collaborative Process focuses on developing resolutions that truly meet a family’s and children’s needs;
- “Divorce Coaches” support the couple to stay focused on reaching resolutions, rather than being distracted by anger and resentment;
- The emotional impact of divorce upon children is significantly reduced when parents cooperate and listen to each other.
COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE – ILLUSTRATED
If you are a visual learner, take a look at the infographic below to better understand the difference between Traditional Litigation and the Collaborative Divorce process.
As you will see, the judge in Traditional Litigation is replaced by a team of three specialists in Collaborative Divorce.
What Clients Are Saying About Collaborative Divorce Professionals of West Michigan
Collaborative Divorce Professionals is a multidisciplinary association of professionals that include lawyers, mental health professionals, and financial specialists, who work together to promote the Collaborative Process for families going through divorce.
Members listed on their website have participated in the appropriate training and have the required licenses in their respective fields.
Although divorce is a very challenging process, most couples that utilize the Collaborative Process are satisfied with the end result:
“Thank you so much for everything! You made a difficult process much more bearable by being kind, caring, and helpful.” -Client K.
“[My collaborative attorney] and I sat in a conference room, for what must have been 2 hours…She suggested a ‘collaborative divorce.’ After discussing it with my ex and finding out his lawyer also handled collaborative divorces, we decided this would be the best route and would cause the least amount of harm to the girls…My divorce is now final, and I can’t thank the entire staff enough.” -Client J.
“We chose a collaborative style divorce. [Our attorney’s] experience with this type of complex negotiation definitely helped make it possible for us to achieve our mutual and individual goals, more so than a traditional adversarial divorce would have allowed.” – Client A.
Going through a Divorce? Collaborative Divorce Professionals Can Help.
If you or someone you know is facing the heart-break of a divorce, please share this information with them. Encourage them to talk with Collaborative Divorce Professionals of West Michigan today and find the most gentle approach to divorce.