Collaborative Divorce FAQ

What is a collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce is a team approach to divorce that is based on the open and voluntary exchange of information and the pursuit of solutions that meet the needs of both parties.  The parties and their attorneys work together with the help of specially trained divorce coaches and neutral experts to advise the parties throughout the process.

How is collaborative different from court?

A collaborative divorce involves a series of meetings between the parties in which the parties work together gathering information, identifying goals, and developing and evaluating options for themselves and their family.  Unlike collaborative, a divorce in court is set up like a tug of war in which parties fight vigorously for their own needs and wants, in opposition to and often simply in reaction to the positions of the other party. In a collaborative divorce, the parties work with their attorneys and other professionals to assist in finding common ground and solutions.

What is the difference between collaborative practice and mediation?

While both processes focus on cooperation between the parties and seek solutions to which both parties agree, a mediator (even a mediator who is an attorney) is not permitted to give legal advice to the parties; generally in order to obtain legal advice, each party must consult with his or her own attorney outside of the mediation sessions.  In collaborative practice, both parties’ attorneys are present at every meeting, and legal information, as well as each attorney’s opinions about what might happen if any given issue were litigated, may be provided by the attorneys at joint meetings.  In this way, both parties hear the advice and legal opinions of the attorneys at the same time, which may make it easier for them to come to the same conclusions about what constitutes a fair settlement.

Who is present at each session: Mediation involves one mediator (or sometimes two co-mediators) meeting with the parties together to try to help the couple identify and reach a settlement on all issues between them.  Ordinarily other experts or professionals are not included in the mediation sessions.  In the collaborative process the parties benefit from divorce coaches, child specialists, financial or tax neutrals, and other specialists as needed.  These professionals provide expertise in their respective disciplines, which assists the parties in making well-informed decisions.

Support at meetings:  A skilled mediator can help to ensure that each party speaks up and can try to prevent one spouse from overpowering the other in mediation.  However, without his or her attorney present, often one spouse may agree to certain proposals or may waive certain rights because he or she is intimidated or wishes to avoid confrontation.  In the collaborative process, all content-based discussions occur in meetings where the couple and their attorneys, and/or other professional members of the collaborative team as appropriate, provide support so that both parties’ views are heard, and options are developed to address all concerns.

What are the benefits of a collaborative divorce?

Collaborative practice allows divorcing couples to control the outcome of their divorce, focus on the future, to preserve family relationships as they transition to a new family dynamic, and to avoid the destructive and hurtful consequences of a divorce pursued through the court system.  By working together to pursue solutions and outcomes that meet their needs and goals, families employing a collaborative approach can create solutions that traditional divorce processes are not designed to achieve.

What is a collaborative team?

The collaborative team is comprised of an attorney for each client, a divorce coach for each client and a variety of neutral experts who are brought into the process as dictated by the needs of the parties.  All CDRP members are required to have a minimum of 30 hours of training in client-centered conflict resolution and at least 16 hours of training in collaborative practice.

Is it expensive?

The cost of collaborative divorce varies from case to case. The greatest cost difference between a collaborative divorce and a divorce in court is that the collaborative process facilitates communication between the parties to minimize conflict and produce a forward-looking, durable agreement that meets the needs of all parties. In court, decisions are made by a single judge which often leaves one party or both feeling that they were not heard and dissatisfied with the outcome.  As a result, couples who resort to court tend to return to court repeatedly, seeking to obtain “better” outcomes at greater emotional and financial cost.

How long does it take?

A collaborative divorce can produce an agreement in as few as 4 or 5 meetings; the speed of the process depends entirely on the clients and the complexity of their issues.  As families grow and change over time and new issues arise, the team can be brought back together if needed.

How can I get started?

To get started, simply contact one of our professionals. Any one of our members can help you initiate the collaborative process and can answer questions about whether the process is right for you.