What documents to I need for my divorce?

Divorces run on paperwork and you will need to gather a lot of documentation before you will be prepared for court. To make things easier, we have created the following checklist for you. You will need:

__At least twelve months of pay stubs
__Your last three years of federal and state tax returns
__Recent W-2 forms for both spouses
__Recent 1099 forms for both spouses
__Payment records for the last year
__Twelve months of banking statements
__Recent summary plans and benefit statements for retirement plans
__Deeds, recent mortgage statements, and current property tax bills for your real estate
__An inventory of your household and personal property with photographs and appraisals
__Registration forms, purchase contracts, leases, payment records, and current values for your vehicles
__Life insurance policies, current statements of premiums paid, and the cash surrender value
__Investment portfolio
__Recent statements for profit sharing and annuities
__Last three years of corporate tax returns and your most recent K-1 forms for your business interests
__Debt records for things like student loans, contracts, promissory notes, and credit cards
__Current information on court orders and statements concerning support obligations you owe your spouse with your records of payment
__Wills and estate plans for both spouses

How does Collaborative Practice focus on the future?

Since it is less confrontational and more about working together, the Collaborative Process allows each spouse to focus on getting a fresh start. Instead of planning tactics to get the most out of your spouse, you can plan for your children’s future needs and make a smooth transition to the next stage of your life.

Is a Collaborative Divorce faster than a standard Divorce?

Each divorce procedure is different but, for the most part, a Collaborative Divorce is faster. It is a more direct process and you don’t have to wait for the court to catch up. You and your spouse can set the pace and get it done as quickly or as slowly as you need.

How does a Collaborative Divorce differ from a standard Divorce?

In conventional divorce the two parties generally regard themselves as adversaries, because this is the way the process is set up. The case goes to court, which triggers a set of legal steps you must follow. The ensuing conflict escalates any negative feelings you may have had and ratchets up the stress levels. A Collaborative Divorce is all about working together toward the conclusion you and your spouse need. There is very little conflict so you have less stress and a higher probability of maintaining an amicable relationship after the divorce is over.

How does Collaborative Practice actually work?

It usually follows this pattern:

  1. Each party hires a lawyer trained in Collaborative Divorce
  2. Everyone involved signs an agreement that says they won’t go to court
  3. The spouses meet with each other together with the lawyers, as well as with their lawyers individually
  4. Additional experts are brought in to assist with specific issues
  5. Both parties work together to solve their dispute and reach a mutual understanding
What is an “Interdisciplinary Team Model” in Collaborative Divorce?

The interdisciplinary Collaborative Team Model is a multi-disciplinary team approach to dispute resolution (usually separation and divorce), which includes attorneys, coaches, a financial specialist, and when there are minor children, a child specialist, working interactively as co-equals. Professionals on the team all subscribe to the same core values and shared beliefs, consistent with the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) ethical guidelines, which state that none of the team members will be involved in any court process concerning a shared case, and that all members will withdraw from the case if it becomes a court process.

This integrated model provides the couple with the services they need from the professional that is most qualified to address each complex issue involved in a divorce. Working together, these Collaborative professionals help divorcing couples achieve an outcome that would not be possible without this cooperative team involvement.

What is a Collaborative team?

When a couple starts a Collaborative Divorce, they pick a number of experts to help them through the process. The team 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 in negotiating a mutually beneficial agreement and file the necessary paperwork when the process has concluded.
  • The Divorce Coaches help 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 look out 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.
What is Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce, Collaborative Law and Collaborative Process are terms often used interchangeably. However, they are all a part of Collaborative Practice. Collaborative Practice includes three key components:

  1. A free exchange of information
  2. A pledge not to litigate
  3. A commitment to finding a mutually beneficial resolution
What’s the difference between the Collaborative Process and Mediation?

In Mediation there is an impartial third party helping to reach a resolution and they cannot give legal advice. In a Collaborative Divorce each party has their attorney with them to act as their advocate and help them push through any problems. They are not there as adversaries though; they are there to work together in reaching a satisfactory conclusion. The lawyers can then draft the settlement terms and let everyone look them over to ensure both parties are satisfied.

What is Collaborative Practice?

Generally, collaborative practice is a non-litigated, non-adversarial way to resolve disputes respectfully.  It is most often used for resolving divorce, custody, and other family law issues but is increasingly used in other areas, such as business disputes and probate.  In a collaborative case, the parties work with a team of professionals, including lawyers, mental health professionals, and financial neutrals, to resolve their issues without resorting to litigation.  This is why collaborative practice is sometimes referred to as “no court divorce.”

What is the Point of Having a Collaborative Team?

Each case is different.  Your case is unlike any other case: it has unique people, personalities, facts, and circumstances.  A collaborative team works with you and your partner to help you find solutions that are right for your family.  Each member of the collaborative team has specific expertise and insights that help you achieve your goals.

My divorce is easy, why do I need such a large team?

Some lawyers will take a collaborative case using only some of the team members.  In our experience, clients ultimately see better results when they use an entire team.  This is called a “full team” case.  Because each collaborative case is different, you may not use certain members of the team very much.  Some people only have one meeting with a team member and never need them again.   That’s ok.  But it’s better to have a team member in place, just in case you need them.  If a problem arises in the case and if a team member is not already in place, it could take weeks or months to bring the new team member into the case and bring them up to speed.

In our practice I only take full team cases because a full team is better prepared to handle any problems that might come up.

Who is involved in my collaborative divorce and what do they do?

The clients.   The most important team members are the clients.  The clients agree to do the following:

  • work as a part of the team to develop various options for solutions to problems; and
  • addresses issues they may have with the process directly with the team.

Collaborative coaches.  Collaborative coaches are mental health professionals; however, they do not practice therapy in a collaborative case.  Instead, they help clients communicate so that they can move through the process most efficiently, and they help clients put together their parenting plan.  Collaborative coaches

  • help clients clarify their concerns;
  • help clients manage their emotions;
  • help clients develop effective communication skills and reinforce those skills; and
  • help clients develop effective co-parenting skills and formulate a parenting plan.

Child specialist.  The child specialist acts as the voice for the children in the divorce.  Specifically, the child specialist

  • listens to each child;
  • sensitizes parents to the needs of each child in the context of the divorce; and
  • gives information to  parents and  the coaching team to assist in developing an effective co-parenting plan.

Financial Specialist.  The financial specialist gathers and analyzes the financial data provided by the parties.  The financial specialist, with the attorneys, helps the couple explore their financial options and decide on the best plan for their family.  As part of this process, the financial specialist

  • gathers financial data
  • develops different financial scenarios for clients to evaluate; and
  • provides financial guidance, planning, support and budgeting throughout the divorce process.

Collaborative attorneys.  Collaborative attorneys help the clients evaluate options and advise clients on the legal implications of each option, draft the necessary legal documents, and shepherd the case through the court system to obtain a Final Judgment.  Specifically the attorneys

  •  assist clients in gathering and analyzing information;
  •  help clients examine needs and interests to develop settlement options and packages;
  •  help clients evaluate consequences and limitations of possible solutions;
  •  help clients re-sort values and interests in relation to settlement options being developed and presented; and
  • sset the framework for negotiation.
How much does a collaborative divorce cost?

The cost of each case depends on many factors, including the complexity of the facts, the size of the marital estate, how well the parties are able to work together, whether the kids have any special needs, and any mental health issues that might need to be addressed.  Even so, a collaborative case is not as expensive as you might think.  Remember, you will be paying experts to perform their functions on the team.  That means they’ll probably be very efficient, and you will be getting more value for the money you spend.

In a traditionally-litigated case, each side typically spends a great deal of time and money trying to get documents and witness testimony from the other side so that they can prepare their case for trial.  This can be the most expensive part of litigation, often costing tens of thousands of dollars.  In a collaborative case, both sides agree that the process will be transparent, and that each side will turn over all necessary documents and information.  Working with each other, instead of against each other, often turns out to be much less expensive than in litigated divorces.

How Do I Get Started with My Divorce?

First, you need to meet with a collaboratively trained lawyer.  A collaborative case cannot proceed without two lawyers who both have received special training in collaborative practice.  For information on which lawyers have been collaboratively trained, go to the collaborative practice group or website in your state.  In Georgia, you can see if a lawyer has been collaboratively trained by visiting the website for the Collaborative Law Institute of Georgia, www.collaborativepracticega.com

Once you and your partner have both retained collaborative attorneys, they will schedule a “Four-Way Meeting” to discuss your case and sign the necessary paperwork for a collaborative case.  At that time the lawyers will help you put together a collaborative team.  You’ll be given “homework” to do and your lawyers will help you start moving forward with your case.

Your case will then proceed in a series of meetings with the various professionals in which you will discuss, brainstorm, and negotiate a settlement of all issues related to the divorce.

Do I have to see my spouse during a collaborative divorce?

It’s important to understand that collaborative divorce is not for everyone.  You have to be willing to work hard, to treat them with respect, to be honest, and to play fair.  And your most important priority has to be your kids.  Frankly, not everyone can successfully complete a collaborative case.  But if you want to dance at your daughter’s wedding, to be in the same room at your son’s graduation, or to see your grandchildren without worrying whether your ex-spouse will show up unexpectedly and ruin the day, this is the process for you.  If you want your kids to be able to invite both of you to the school play, collaborative divorce is the process for you.

Is mediation a waste of time if I’ve already made up my mind?

Not necessarily. It will give you a chance to explain your position to your spouse and they may end up seeing things your way.

Do I have to discuss all of my issues in front of my spouse during mediation?

No; the mediator often has one-on-one meetings so that each party can be comfortable talking about sensitive issues without worrying that it will get back to the other party.

Do we need to involve our children in the mediation?

Not unless there is a compelling reason to include them. Otherwise it is best left to the adults.

If I am not a good negotiator and my spouse is, will they have an edge?

No; that is why there is an impartial third party as mediator. The mediator can keep the negotiation from becoming unbalanced.

If I am going through mediation, does it mean I don’t need an attorney?

No; you still need your own private attorney during mediation. The mediator cannot give legal advice, so you will need expert counsel of your own.

If the mediation falls through can my spouse use the information from it against me?

No. Except in cases of domestic abuse, things that were written or said during mediation are privileged and cannot be divulged by anyone involved.

Will an agreement reached during mediation be legally binding later?

If the Mediation is successful and the mediator prepares a Memorandum of Settlement or a Settlement Agreement then you, your spouse and a judge will be required to sign. This is the same process used at the end of a standard divorce so yes, it is binding.

What is the difference between mediation and litigation?

Mediation costs less, takes less time and enables the participants to remain in control of the situation. Plus, with mediation there is a higher probability that the participants will enjoy an amicable relationship after the divorce is done.

How long does each mediation session take?

Most mediators try to keep a meeting under four hours but it again depends on the participants. If they work well together and negotiate well then it will be over quickly. If they can’t then it could take much longer.

How long will it take to get through mediation?

With all of the factors involved there is just no way to accurately answer that question. You and your spouse will primarily be the ones setting the pace, so it’s up to you. Sometimes it does take one spouse longer to work through it than the other, but this is usually in cases where the divorce was a surprise to them.  Mediation can be completed in a day or it can take multiple sessions over several weeks or months to complete.

Who pays for the mediator?

That is purely up to the parties involved. The mediator’s services can be paid for from a joint account, be paid 50/50, or one spouse can pay the mediator’s full fee.

Is mediation expensive?

Mediation isn’t going to be cheap but it doesn’t even compare to the costs of going to court. Generally, the cost of mediation is determined by the mediator’s hourly rate and the hours they spend on the case. How long mediation takes is completely up to you and your spouse. If you work together well and get things done quickly then the costs can be kept to a minimum.

How do I know if mediation is right for me?

Mediation would be the right choice if you:

  • Want to solve your issues amicably without going to court
  • Want to keep control of the process instead of giving control to a judge
  • Want your personal affairs to remain private
  • Can work with your spouse in good faith and trust them to do the same
  • Can provide full disclosure
  • Are willing to compromise to some degree
  • Are not a victim of domestic abuse
  • Don’t have any substance abuse problems or emotional issues
What is Mediation?

Mediation is a process in which you negotiate the terms of your divorce while being guided by an impartial third party called the mediator. The mediator will assist you in resolving issues of child custody, child support, spousal support (alimony) and the division of property.