The steps of a collaborative divorce

The Collaborative Divorce process is a fairly new concept in the law. Many people have not heard of it and those that have may not understand the process. It is much less complicated than litigation but you still have to follow a few steps:

  1. First Contact – Since the process is new, once the client has contacted an expert in Collaborative Divorce, the expert will need to give them a little education on the subject and decide whether it is right for them. The expert will usually give the client the names of experts in other fields that they will need to assemble the collaborative team.
  2. The Collaborative Team – A collaborative team must be assembled that generally consists of 2 lawyers, 2 divorce coaches, 1 child specialist, and 1 neutral financial specialist. They assist the couple in the following ways:
    • The attorneys will assist the couple to negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement and file the necessary paperwork when the process has concluded.
    • The divorce coach helps the couple develop the negotiating and self-management skills they will need to make the process a success.
    • The child specialist acts as the children’s voice in the process and helps the parents lookout for the children’s needs.
    • The financial specialist assists in gathering the crucial financial documentation and helps the couple to gauge what kind of financial repercussions their decisions may have.
  3. Initial Meeting – The attorneys and the clients have what is referred to as the first four-way meeting and many issues are covered.
  4. The Collaborative Practice Agreement – This agreement is one of the most important items to be handled at the first meeting. The agreement addresses the general concepts and principles that serve as the foundation of the collaborative process. The agreement includes the goals of the collaborative process and the spouses’ mutual commitment to settling their case without court intervention. A Collaborative Statement of Understanding is also signed at the first meeting by everyone involved.
  5. The Agenda – Once the paperwork has been signed, everyone discusses the best way to proceed. No two divorces will have the exact same issues, so the couple needs to decide which issues should be covered immediately and which ones can be addressed later.
  6. Conclusion of First Meeting – Before the first meeting ends, two things need to be covered. The first is a list of any information or documents that one spouse needs from the other. The second is a time and date that needs to be set for the next meeting, as well as which experts will be attending.
  7. Follow-up Meetings – Each subsequent meeting will deal with the couple’s issues in order to come to an understanding. Since the meetings will be covering different subjects, every expert won’t need to attend every meeting. For instance, if you are discussing financial matters then you may not need the divorce coach there. But even if they don’t attend, team members can get a lot done outside of meetings through phone calls, emails, and other communications.
  8. Final Agreement and Judgment – At the end of the Collaborative Divorce process there will usually be an extensive list of issues that have been worked through. At this time, your attorneys will prepare a Settlement Agreement, Parenting Plan, Child Support Worksheets, and Child Support Addendum, and file any necessary documents. These are the same documents that would be prepared at the end of any normal divorce case. If everyone agrees to the wording, the couple will sign the documents and they get filed with the court.

From start to finish, the entire process usually takes around three to eight months to complete. However, the duration of the process can vary dramatically from case to case because of all the possible variables and the complexity of the issues.

Many people want to know how much it will cost to try the collaborative approach, but it is impossible to give a blanket answer to that question because of the differences in each case. It is fair to say that usually, it will be much cheaper than if you litigated your divorce case.

If you are interested in trying the collaborative approach or would just like more information about the process, call us at 770-641-8200 or send us an email to discuss your situation with one of our experienced attorneys.