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What is a streamlined collaborative law divorce?

Not every divorce is a contentious battle in court. Some couples understand that they’re better apart than together and take steps to resolve all their disputes in a calm manner. These divorcing couples have a chance to use alternative methods to traditional courtroom proceedings. While mediation and arbitration have been around for a long time, there’s a new process called collaborative law that might be a good option.

Basics of a Streamlined Collaborative Law DivorceĀ 

In 1990, a divorce lawyer named Stu Webb became frustrated with the court system. It took a long time to reach agreements and there were many roadblocks in the court system with which he didn’t agree. Instead of filing court documents and taking the process to court, he started taking clients that didn’t want to head to court. He made his terms clear. He wouldn’t take their case if they planned on going to court. If the process dissolved into a court matter that he couldn’t resolve for his clients, he wouldn’t represent them any longer. Webb was simply tired of all the drama and delay tactics of the process. The concept began to catch on across the legal community as well as with couples who didn’t want to spend time in court.

Unlike mediation, the spouses will each have their own lawyer for legal advice and support. All four individuals will sign an agreement that supports the concept of communication and honesty in the proceedings. It’ll also state their promise not to file court proceedings in the future. If the process does fail and the couple decides on court, the legal representatives of the collaborative process won’t be involved in the lawsuit.

A contentious divorce pits one side against the other. The settlement process can be long and arduous since neither side wants to concede an inch on any particular point of the bargaining. In the collaborative process, the spouses’ needs are evaluated based on their future interests as well as the interest’s of the children that might be involved.

This process starts out with everyone having the best intentions, but it might break down as the couples struggle. A neutral counselor can be brought in to ensure that the meetings can be kept as calm as possible. In the marriage, one spouse might have been left with no decision-making power. The counselor can couch this spouse to speak without reservation during the meetings.

What are the Benefits?

The goal of collaborative law is to reach an agreement for the divorce that will leave both parties satisfied with the dissolution of the marriage. Many divorces cause bitter regret and dissatisfaction that can color their interactions in the future. If the couple has children, that can cause serious issues in the relationship in the future. There are other benefits to the process aside from less bitterness.

  • The proceedings are private. Courtroom proceedings are out in the public for everyone to hear.
  • Problems are addressed in a calm way that can lead to a better future for all.
  • A judge can’t resolve matters creatively, but it can be done by the couples in a collaborative environment.
  • The process is streamlined and professional while giving the divorcing spouses a voice in what happens next.

The Process and Steps

Since most couples don’t know about the process, they don’t know what happens during a streamlined collaborative law proceeding. The couple will hire a lawyer to represent them. This lawyer should be practicing collaborative law. Proper lawyers are usually members of the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals.

If other professionals are needed, they are hired by the group. This could include a financial advisor, child advocate or counselor. Information is gathered during the next step of the process. Lawyers will meet with their clients to find out what they would like to happen in the future. They’ll draw up a plan for a full meeting with all the parties involved.

At this full meeting, the couple and the lawyers will discuss how to move forward, so each spouse is satisfied with the arrangement. This will include financial arrangements, child support and debt assessment. After the details are finalized, the papers are drawn up for the court and all parties sign the uncontested divorce papers for the court.

In the collaborative process, there’s a calmness that doesn’t happen with a contentious drama-filled divorce. While the spouses might not agree on every point, they do agree to stay away from court and hammer out their issues. While some lawyers argue that a collaborative divorce is more expensive, it actually costs less because there aren’t as many continuances or time spent filing briefs and waiting for the court to make decisions.