Making the decision to end a marriage is never easy. Divorce can be an incredibly complex and confusing time for all parties, especially if both spouses disagree on most issues. In fact, few people experience a straightforward divorce, where both parties agree on all issues.
More often than not, divorcing couples fall somewhere in the middle – they are perhaps willing to establish an agreement outside of a court setting, but they may not be in agreement when it comes to all essential issues. These issues can involve:
The division of assets, including property
However, couples that do agree on key issues do have an alternative – a process known as collaborative divorce.
What Is Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative divorce is a legal process in which a couple negotiates a mutually acceptable agreement, with the assistance of legal professionals. This method removes the traditional “fight and win” setting so familiar to divorce court, and implements a “troubleshoot and problem solve” negotiation process.
When a couple enters into this process, they are choosing to use negotiations and mediation to settle their divorce. This is reinforced with a thorough agreement that both spouses sign either at the start of the divorce or soon after. This agreement spells out all the rules of the divorce process.
Spouses will also retain their own specially trained attorney, who will assist in negotiating the divorce settlement.
In addition to meeting with your own legal counsel, a collaborative divorce also includes “four-way meetings” and meetings with any specialists who may need to weigh in on your case. This can include professionals like neutral accountants or child custody specialists, depending on the situation.
Here are some characteristics of a typical collaborative family law or divorce case:
- Both parties hire their own separate attorneys who only represent their client
- All other hired experts (some are listed below) are neutrals who are retained by both parties and who have no allegiance, and will show no favoritism, toward either party
- A neutral professional is chosen to lead the process who has experience in doing so
- Other neutral professionals may be hired as needed including CPA’s, mental health experts, appraisers, financial advisors and the like
- Both spouses agree to make a full disclosure of all relevant facts about their case including full financial disclosure
- If the case does not settle (but most do) then both attorneys and other neutrals must withdraw from the case and they cannot thereafter be involved in the case. This removes much of any incentive that any attorney or client may have to give up on the process and begin contested litigation
What Are the Benefits of Collaborative Divorce
Most would agree that the most significant benefit of collaborative divorce is that it eases the stress and uncertainty that can often accompany the divorce process. Because both parties are committed to negotiation, collaborative divorce will – more often than not – lead to an end result that is benefits both parties.
Collaborative divorce also allows a couple to establish a course of action in the event of any post-settlement disputes. This process also encourages both parties to keep the exchange of information free, informal, open and honest, as both are invested in a mutually beneficial result.
Oftentimes, a couple will decide to enter into a collaborative divorce to help stabilize the situation after [separation]. Whether a couple elects to use collaboration from the onset, or turns to it later in the process, it can save significant time and money. Most importantly, the couple can make it through their divorce with their dignity and privacy reasonably intact.
What If Collaborative Divorce Fails?
In situations where both parties have difficulties reaching a mutual agreement, a licensed mediator may be brought into the process. These professionals are incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to divorce law procedures, and can provide the strategic insight and skills necessary to guide a couple through to a mutually acceptable agreement.
Collaborative divorce is also unique in the sense that both spouses, and their attorneys, sign an agreement indicating that they will not continue the case should it progress to litigation in court. This eliminates any incentive for any legal professional to reach an unreasonable deal for the spouse they are representing.
That’s why compromise is strongly incentivized in this type of divorce proceeding. In a situation where a couple is unable to reach a divorce agreement, both attorneys must withdraw from the case before it can be brought before a [judge]. Neither attorney, nor the spouses involved, want to see a collaborative case end, just for bitter litigation to resume.
However, should a collaborative divorce process fail, it could lead to a trial or a series of contentious hearings that involve varying degrees of evidence or [pretrial] maneuvers. This can also signal a return to the hostile tone so familiar to divorce cases today – a severe departure from the collaborative process.
Collaborative Divorce Attorneys in Tampa, Florida
If you or someone you love is currently considering divorce, or have discussed a collaborative approach to divorce with your spouse, it is in your best interest to seek the guidance of an attorney as soon as possible. Only an attorney specializing in divorce – specifically a collaborative approach – can provide the sound guidance you need to successfully navigate the divorce process.
In Tampa, Florida and the surrounding communities, the legal team at Anton Family Law group provides legal support to couples making the difficult decision to divorce, including those who are looking to take a collaborative approach. This area of law is a key focus area for our firm and our founder, David Anton, is one of the founding members of the Tampa Bay area collaborative law organization, Next Generation Divorce Group (NGD).
To discuss the collaborative divorce process with one of our attorneys, contact Anton Family Law Group today at (813) 443-5249.