If you know that the divorce is inevitable but cannot convince your spouse that mediation will save time and money; or if either of you do not feel comfortable in moving forward without an attorney representing your own interests, you might consider each of you engaging an attorney who practice collaborative law and is willing to work with the other attorney in an effort to reach a settlement. While this process is not always less expensive than a contested divorce, the goal is a fair settlement without Court intervention. The only need for a court appearance would be the final hearing when the Judge approves your marital dissolution agreement and parenting plan (if applicable) and grants the divorce.
The main difference in this process and the litigation process is that the two of you and your respective attorneys enter into an initial contract providing that all issues will be settled outside the courtroom. Each party consults with his/her attorney and a series of meetings with both parties and attorneys present are held to negotiate an agreement, addressing all the issues required by the Court for the divorce to be granted.
In addition to meeting with attorneys a financial neutral is often used to assist the parties with the financial issues, identifying debts and assets and planning for the parties’ financial future. When emotions are high and/or there are disagreements about children often a mental health professional (coach) is added to the team to assist the parents with parenting plan issues and emotional issues which often may interfere with the negotiation process.
The collaborative law process allows the parties to see how their funds are being used to solve the problems inherent in the divorce process and avoids litigations expenses for fighting in court to prove one or the other wrong as well as the costs of formal discovery (interrogatories or depositions). The necessary information is gathered in an informal and much less expensive manner.
If a settlement cannot be reached and it is necessary for the parties to have the Court’s assistance in settling their differences, it is then necessary for both parties to retain new counsel for the purpose of litigating the unresolved issues.
Jan has extensive training in collaborative law.