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What is Collaborative Divorce in New York?

Divorce can be a complicated matter, especially when the former partners can’t seem to agree on anything. These are the cases that get the most attention, because they often involve a great deal of public mud-slinging and heated debates. What happens when the former couple can agree on most things, but need a little help navigating the nuances of divorce law? In those circumstances, the individuals may tell their lawyers they want to pursue a collaborative divorce.

Why do Couples Embrace the Idea of a Collaborative Divorce?
Where some couples fight over every aspect of a divorce settlement, from dividing up property to establishing the custody of minor children, other couples are able to cooperate more amicably. This removes the adversarial setting of a divorce court and allows both sides to work together towards settling the terms. In a collaborative divorce, the former couple works together to settle whatever disputes may arise without resorting to placing blame or attempting to tarnish one another’s reputation.
It’s easy to see why most courts urge, or even mandate, that a couple attempts mediation or a collaborative divorce, before taking their dispute into litigation. Aside from the fact that a collaborative divorce reduces the friction between the two sides, it can also save money and ease the burden of the family court system. The problem lies in the fact that a collaborative divorce can only work, when both parties are honestly interested in making it work. When emotions are high and the pain of betrayal is still fresh, one or both parties may be unwilling to consider compromise. Too often, divorce is used by one partner to punish the other.

When it does work, collaborative divorce can provide a great many benefits to the parties involved. Primarily, it saves money on larger attorney fees, court costs, and administrative expenses associated with investigating a divorce. The setting is more informal, as well. This is important, because it offers the two individuals an opportunity to communicate in a more personal manner. By coming together in this way, each member of the former couple feels more open to the mediation process and to compromise.
In a disputed divorce, there’s a great deal of time and money spent on trying to determine the assets and financial status of the other party. Where the primary economic concerns are uncontested, however, fees paid to attorneys, investigators, courts, and financial institutions in the pursuit of documents is limited. Each party agrees to cooperate fully and to trust that the other party will do the same. This saves on expenses and cuts out one of the most time-consuming aspects of a divorce.

Finally, the divorcing couple will get to set their own rules. In addition to agreeing on the property distribution and custody issues, the couple can even set up terms for resolving future disputes. When minor children are a concern, no marriage is ever truly dissolved. Parenting the children will keep the former partners connected, so it’s important to determine how they will function in the future. Setting rules for these situations at the time of the divorce, can save legal fees for both parties and can help avoid frustrating disputes.

How Does a Collaborative Divorce Work?
This kind of divorce relies heavily on the negotiating process, so, even though each party needs an attorney, it’s best to avoid an aggressive litigator. Instead, each side should seek out an attorney experienced in mediating and collaborative divorces. Once attorneys have been hired, the two parties and their attorneys will meet for an initial negotiation.

Prior to meeting, each party will consult privately with their attorney to discuss their goals. They will set the ground rules for what they want, where they’re willing to compromise, and on which issues they will not bend. This will help each attorney better advise their client during the process and will help the two attorneys better communicate with one another. As the entire process will rely on several meetings like this, it’s important to learn how to communicate with everyone involved in way conducive to negotiating a final settlement. Unlike divorce court, bitter disputes will not help prove one side or the other.
There are occasions in which mediation just doesn’t work. In that situation, the couple may have no choice but to pursue a full divorce proceeding in family court. For this reasons, the attorneys each side retains will likely have signed a “no court” clause and will step down from these cases. The couple will then have to retain a litigation attorney experienced with divorce law.

It’s always preferable to pursue an amicable divorce. It makes the settlement easier and ensures better relations in future encounters, especially in sharing parenting responsibilities. A collaborative divorce can sometimes take more patience and greater understanding, but it’s worth it in the long run. Together, the former couple can work together to settle their differences and avoid lengthy and costly court proceedings.