The following article is by North Carolina family law attorney Lee Rosen:

Nationwide, collaborative divorce is attracting considerable attention as a proactive and humane settlement option, and it’s starting to catch on . . .. When executed as agreed to by divorcing individuals and their attorneys, studies show that a collaborative settlement is reach faster than older forms of negotiation and greatly reduces the emotional trauma families experience in the throes of a divorce, especially the children. It also significantly lowers the expenses incurred by divorcing couples, protecting families from unnecessary resource depletion at a time when monies are needed to establish two households.

In a collaborative divorce, each spouse has the support, protection, and guidance of his or her own lawyer. Often, other professionals, such as child specialists, financial experts and divorce coaches will be brought in to advise matters in their areas of expertise.

Collaborative divorce is not a dispute resolution option in the same sense as mediation or arbitration. Rather, collaborative divorce is a set of voluntary ground rules entered into by the professionals hired by you and your spouse. While the details vary, the central idea is that the parties agree not to take the case to trial. You, your spouse and all professionals involved sign a contract to honor the following core elements of collaborative divorce:

  • To negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement without using court to decide any issues for the clients
  • To engage in open communication and information sharing
  • To create shared solutions that take into account the highest priorities of both clients
  • To ensure the withdrawal of the involved professionals if either client goes to court

If you are one of those couples who say, “We are only going to hire lawyers if we can’t work it out and it gets really ugly,” then collaborative divorce is for you. This process allows you all the benefits of legal advice without the threat of a court battle. Collaborative divorce lawyers make sure you understand the law, your rights, your obligations and the legal effect of your decisions. Other experts are brought into the collaborative process as needed, but only as neutrals jointly retained by both parties. For example, collaborative divorce financial professionals advise you about the hidden pitfalls of the tax code and the intricate rules imposed by the U.S. Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service governing drafting mistakes that cost both parties in ways they didn’t expect.

The collaborative divorce process requires two attorneys trained in collaborative divorce. Lawyers must undergo specialized instruction to develop collaborative negotiation skills. They create an open environment for their clients, one that encourages the peaceful resolution of issues. Like mediation and arbitration, collaborative divorce attempts to maintain a civil relationship between husband and wife throughout the negotiation process and after an agreement is reached. If one party becomes uncomfortable while addressing a particular issue during negotiation, a mediator may be consulted to help with the collaborative process. If this fails to bring closure, both parties must hire new counsel to deal with unresolved issues through arbitration or litigation. A divorce that is settled collaboratively requires between 15 and 40 hours of legal work depending on the complexity of the case. If a business evaluation is involved, the process may take considerably more time. Experts such as accountants, therapists, appraisers and other consultants are retained jointly by both parties unless other arrangements are agreed to.

In the case of minor-aged children, parents agree to insulate them from involvement in the dispute and to not see custody evaluation while the matter is a collaborative case, unless agreed to by both parties.

Through the negotiations of collaborative divorce often help divorcing couples put their lives back in order; the process is not for all situations. Couples entering into a collaborative process should feel confident both parties will be honest and forthcoming throughout the negotiating process.

In most situations, however, collaborative divorce is a way to avoid litigation and come out of a divorce cooperating on child issues and settling financial issues in a way that the parties were never able to do during the marriage. People learn new skills to cooperate and communicate. It not only ends the marriage in a positive way, it prepares folks to move forward with their lives and make new relationships work.

SOURCE: Carolina Newswire