Now That You Have Decided to Get Divorced, Choose the Collaborative Process

By Enid Ponn

Breaking up a family is extremely sad. Add to that the devastating nature of the divorce process itself, and the result is a traumatic and destructive event. Unfortunately, in litigation, the “event” can take a year or two to conclude.

During this time, your life is not your own. You attend depositions, hearings, conferences, mediations, appointments to prepare for trial and and the trial itself. Time away from work and the loss of productivity is just one of the costs paid by those involved in divorce litigation. The negative impact on the children is often irreparable. Conflict resulting from heightened family discord, not the divorce itself that has the potential to cause emotional distress.

If the prospect of litigation does not attract you, but your marriage is irretrievably broken, there is some good news. You can partake in an alternate process to acquire your divorce called collaborative divorce or the collaborative process.

Spouses still have their own attorneys, but rather than each paying a pit bull lawyer to spar in court, the couple and attorneys agree to work together every step of the way to create a specially customized plan for each family. Collaborative attorneys are specially trained in this process and sign written Participation Agreement which states that if the case does not settle, they will not litigate the case, but will withdraw as counsel. Their only focus and motivation is to resolve the issues out of court in this non-adversarial, streamlined process which is based on open and constructive communication, not confrontation. If they cannot settle the case, they are out of a job.

Recently, collaborative divorce attorney are working with a financial professional and a mental health professional as part of an interdisciplinary team, all of whom have been trained in the collaborative process. Issues are resolved through a series of meetings: the process is client-driven: the couple makes their own decisions about their assets and about their children. No decisions are imposed upon them by a judge. A successful collaborative case spare children the anguish of parents who fight forever.

Celebrities such as Robin Williams and Roy Disney have chosen the collaborative process to get their divorces. With collaborative divorce, there is no need to step into a court room until the final paperwork is filed, providing the couples with a degree of privacy and confidentiality not possible in litigation.

Mediation was once thought to be merely an experiment that would not last and is now a permanent part of our legal system. Collaborative family law is destined to be the way of handling divorces in the future. In the last decade the collaborative process was introduced to Florida and we now see that it is finally taking off. After all, who would not choose an alternative that is healthier for everyone, less time consuming and less expensive?