Divorce can cause significant financial and emotional stress. However, there is an alternative to mediation and/or litigation which is becoming increasingly popular, collaborative divorce.
As a means of reaching agreement between a divorcing couple, collaborative practice “provides you and your spouse or partner with the support and guidance of your own lawyers without going to court,” according to the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP).” The process is based on a method that has also been utilized to resolve business matters, environmental matters and even disputes between nations.
Maryland is ahead of most states in encouraging collaborative practice for at least a decade now. Each spouse has their own attorney, and if they so choose, each can agree on a financial neutral, a divorce coach and if children are involved, a child specialist.
The attorneys educate the couple about divorce law and all parties agree that a settlement outside of court is in their best interest.
A financial neutral, a CFP or CPA, provides the financial settlement analysis to the couple and attorneys. They ensure that the attorneys and spouses understand assets, liabilities, budget and taxes, along with other financial concerns. They do not make recommendations, but they provide input to guide the spouses to a neutral decision through a summarized, meaningful report or financial plan for the future.
The divorce coach helps the couple to respectfully communicate and resolve disputes, while also helping them manage any emotional issues throughout the process.
Lastly, a child specialist prioritizes the needs and interests of the child and ensures that they are able to voice any concerns. The specialist also helps the couple to create a successful co-parenting plan. Through the guidance of the team of professionals, spouses are given a non-adversarial method to deal with any controversy.
There are four main cornerstones involved in collaborative divorce:
- The couple and team members cooperatively agree in writing to do what makes sense for all parties involved, including children.
- Each partner should provide all information necessary to make wise decisions.
- All parties agree that the goal is to reach a settlement without threats of litigation.
- If the collaborative process fails, the spouses may litigate. However, the advisory team of professionals may not be involved if the case goes to court as their main focus is to avoid litigation and moving forward with litigation would run afoul of their intentions.
Collaborative divorce usually begins with a meeting between the couples and their attorneys, or the whole team, to sign a participation agreement that contains the four cornerstones stated above. After that, a child specialist will first meet with each parent separately, then with the child. The specialist will address any questions or concerns they may have with a focus on meeting the child’s needs and will develop a parenting plan.
The couple’s choice of how to carry out a divorce can vary based on many factors. The collaborative divorce process is just one of many options available to couples as they navigate through a difficult time. The emotional coaching, unbiased financial advice and dedicated voice for the child can offer an amicable decision making process concerning divorce.
The ultimate goal with collaborative divorce is to remove litigation from the equation and create a signed settlement agreement that both parties should fully adhere to.
For more information on collaborative divorce, feel free to contact the attorneys at Protokowicz & Rodier.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide about the subject matter. A licensed Maryland attorney should be sought about your specific circumstances.