Steps in a Collaborative Divorce

Step 1.   Becoming Familiar with the Process

The client’s initial task is to become familiar with the Collaborative Divorce process. There are numerous articles and explanations on the web about this settlement process and information is easily attainable. If undertaking a collaborative divorce is of interest to the client as a desirable process to negotiate and resolve a divorce settlement, an appointment should be made with a collaborative attorney. Use of a search engine like Google can direct the client to the names of those attorneys in the locale who practice Collaborative Divorce. It is important that such attorneys be collaboratively trained and have extensive experience in this area of family law.

Step 2.   Enlisting your Spouse in the Process

One of the important questions to ask the collaborative attorney is how to approach and enlist the cooperation of the spouse in agreeing to also use the Collaborative Divorce process, since this is the next task of the client. The process is a voluntary one and both spouses must agree to undertake a Collaborative Divorce before the process can proceed. Once the other spouse has also been enlisted in the process and has selected and met with their own collaborative attorney, the attorneys and the clients will meet and together discuss the process, thoroughly review the guidelines and select a divorce coach and financial professional who will be part of the collaborative team. Individual meetings will be set up with the divorce coach and a joint meeting will be set up with the financial professional.

Step 3.   The Divorce Coach

The divorce coach will hear from each party about the emotional and communication issues in the relationship in order to help ensure that the negotiating process proceeds as smoothly as possible. The divorce coach will attend all subsequent meetings with the attorneys and clients as needed. If there are children involved, the divorce coach can often help the parties design a parenting plan. This will include how decision-making for the children will be handled and what will be the children’s residential schedule with the parents. If the child related issues are especially problematic, oftentimes a child specialist will be enlisted to help the parents resolve their difficult parenting issues. In this situation the child specialist will interview the children in order to find out what are their needs, and this information will be reported to the parents.

Step 4.   The Financial Specialist

In the joint meeting with the clients, the financial specialist will advise them what documents and information are needed to thoroughly organize and analyze the financial situation. This will include issues related to the valuation and distribution of the marital assets and, if applicable, the payment of spousal maintenance and/or child support. When the financial specialist has completed this work, a meeting is called with the clients and attorneys so the financial specialist can discuss and explain the financial issues in depth. Some or all decisions may be made at this meeting or it may require subsequent meetings and further thinking and discussion to make the financial decisions. While this is taking place, each client and attorney may be meeting as needed to discuss the process and the options for settlement. It is important to note that the actual settlement negotiations occur in the group meetings with the clients fully participating, rather than having the attorneys exclusively making these decisions with each other as is traditionally the case in an adversarial divorce.

Step 5.   Wrapping it Up

As each part of the settlement process falls into place using the various collaborative processionals discussed, the decisions made are set down in writing for the eventual legal agreement that will be drafted by the attorneys. When the process is completed and all legal documents are drawn up, the clients will thoroughly review them with their attorneys before the case is finalized in court.