Using a Collaborative Approach in Divorce
The dissolution of a marriage is never a pleasant process. But a novel legal approach is attempting to make divorce a less onerous ordeal for spouses and families.
“Collaborative divorce” is based on cooperation rather than litigation. The aim is for the parties to work together in a non-adversarial process and come to a mutually acceptable agreement on all issues.
The collaborative divorce process involves a team of lawyers, accountants, financial planners, mental health professionals and child welfare experts, as needed. As knowledgeable advisors in tax, valuation and other financial issues, CPAs are typically called upon to weigh in on matters regarding the division of assets, income for support, and family budgeting.
How It Works
Each spouse is represented by a separate lawyer specially trained in collaborative law. The spouses and both lawyers sign an agreement to disclose all relevant information and to proceed “respectfully and in good faith” toward a settlement, avoiding litigation.
At the centre of the process are structured meetings involving all four central parties — the spouses and their respective teams of lawyers. Because all four are at the table at the same time and have agreed to ground rules of civility, there’s little room for miscommunication. Threatening, argumentative and accusatory language is forbidden since it diminishes the spirit of collaboration.
Each spouse and lawyer signs an agreement to avoid litigation. If a settlement can’t be reached and one party decides to pursue the divorce in court, the lawyers and other professional team members must withdraw and the spouses must hire new representation.
Among the benefits of a collaborative approach are potential cost savings and relationship preservation. Working collaboratively tends to be more efficient than a typical legal process — and because the rules prohibit accusations and argument, a fair amount of animosity between spouses can usually be avoided.
Interested in collaborative law? DJB’s Valuation team members are trained in collaborative practices and can recommend other professionals with this type of training.