The Collaborative Process

the-collaborative-process-the-ccdmThe Collaborative Process, or collaborative divorce, is a non-adversarial method of resolving family law cases in a less divisive, less time-consuming and less costly way. High levels of hostility and destruction to the family do not have to accompany your divorce or separation. Litigation, which often involves depositions, court hearings, and the trial itself, tends to drive individuals who may already be separated, even farther apart. Instead the Collaborative Process utilizes settlement conferences and discussions to accomplish the same purpose.

How does the Collaborative Process work?

In the collaborative process you and your spouse are represented by your own collaboratively trained attorneys who work as a team to settle your case in a non-adversarial and informal environment.

You are provided the opportunity to resolve your differences respectfully, in private and without the threat of court action. The attorneys, often with the assistance of a financial professional and a mental health professional, provide practical and beneficial solutions for you and your family.

How is the Collaborative Process Different?

Collaborative attorneys are trained to work with you, not against each other. Instead of focusing on assessing the blame for problems, the focus is on finding practical and workable solutions. By utilizing this abbreviated resolution process, more of the financial resources of the marriage are preserved for both of you to divide between yourselves. The opposite is true in litigation where attorneys spend their time and your money fighting, intensifying the conflict, and preparing for trial.

Another key difference between the Collaborative Process and the conventional approach to divorce is that both clients and their attorneys pledge in writing to work toward an Agreement without going to court. If the case does not settle, both attorneys must help you transition to new litigation counsel and are then obligated to withdraw from the case. This written agreement, called a Participation Agreement, prevents attorneys from using the threat of litigation as leverage. They are highly motivated to settle or they are off the case. The alternative of dragging a case through protracted litigation and building up attorney’s fees is not an option.

Maximize Your Privacy

Both mediation and the Collaborative Process are safe environments for people to raise, discuss and resolve intimate details that they may not want aired in the public forum of a court. In the State of Florida files in family law proceedings in the traditional litigated divorce are public record. The information in court files are readily becoming available on the internet for the whole world to read and hearings and trials are open to the public. This may be part of the reason why such celebrities as Robin Williams, Roy Disney and Cameron Crowe have chosen the collaborative process to get their divorces.

Business executives and professionals do not want friends, relatives or competitors to know the details of their businesses or professions. In the Collaborative Process and with prose mediations, minimal paperwork is filed and the papers that are filed generally contain no facts specific to the people involved in the case. There is only a need for one of you to appear in court for a very brief final uncontested hearing so the judge can grant the divorce based on the terms that have already been agreed to in your Settlement Agreement.

Maintain Control over the Outcome of Your Divorce and Your Future

Do you and your spouse or partner want to maintain control of the major financial and personal decisions yourselves rather than relinquishing that control to a judge? In court, decisions are made by a judge who often knows little about you or your children and probably will never meet you until the day of the trial. Yet it is his or her job to impose decisions upon you without your consent on matters as personal as how you will be spending time with your children. By collaborating or mediating, you retain control over the outcome of your case and are empowered to create your own agreement.

The Interdisciplinary Team Approach and the Use of Experts in Collaborative Divorce

At the Center, we know that communication can be strained as a relationship is ending, yet it is essential to keep communication open to reach a positive and workable resolution. The Collaborative Process provides for face-to-face meetings with you, your spouse and your respective collaborative attorneys as well as other neutral collaborative professionals as needed. When the issues are discussed freely and openly, problem solving can be direct and solution-oriented.

Although there are times when the collaborative team is comprised of the two participants and their respective attorneys, we often recommend including other collaboratively trained professionals to provide specialized expertise or support. For example, mental health professionals who are trained in understanding the dynamics of relationships are often asked to join our collaborative team to promote a smoother and more effective resolution of issues.

Depending on the circumstances, we may also invite a financial professional to be part of the collaborative team. After all, divorcing couples have to make some of the most critical financial decisions of their lives during this very stressful and challenging time. Next to the children, concerns about money create the greatest anxiety. Having the neutral financial professional available to us to address these financial or tax-related issues adds that additional element of expertise and support that is much appreciated. We often find that when we work together with a mental health professional and a financial professional as part of an extended team, what is most important to you, including your assets and your children, is better protected. As a team, we are able to generate greater creativity to help you and your spouse design a specially customized plan for yourselves and your family, without wasting a lot of unnecessary time preparing for trial.

Depending on your specific needs, we may recommend bringing in an additional expert for a limited assignment such as an appraiser, business valuator or child specialist. Where this is the case, we would utilize the services of one neutral expert to provide the analysis we rely upon, unlike litigation where each client hires his or her own separate expert.

Divorce is overwhelming. It is normal to experience a great sense of loss, sadness, anger, regret and fear. You may have to work through all of those emotions to get to acceptance, and hopefully a sense of freedom. In addition, it is likely that your emotional divorce will extend beyond the timeframe of your legal divorce. Fortunately, the collaboratively trained mental health professionals who are associated with The Center specialize in helping families transition through divorce and beyond. They are available, if needed, to address the needs of the entire family as you navigate through the extended process of divorce.