Collaborative divorce is a legal process designed to help a divorcing couple reach an out-of-court settlement in which they agree on all issues relating to children, property and finances.
As with any process, there are parameters—or cornerstones—on which the system depends. In order to be an effective, peaceful and dignified way for each spouse to reach their goals, collaborative divorce depends on:
- Disclosure: Under California law, both you and your spouse are required to submit a Schedules of Assets and Debts and Income and Expense Declarations form. Your collaborative divorce team includes a neutral financial expert who can help you accurately complete this form. In addition to being a legal requirement, this declaration is the basis for resolving issues surrounding division of property and spousal support.
- Respect: At the heart of a successful collaborative divorce settlement is the need for you and your spouse to attain mutual respect. When you respect each other, no matter how much anger and disappointment you may be feeling, you will be able to communicate openly and make decisions that are best for all involved, especially your children. In the collaborative practice, the divorce coach works with the couple to help foster healthy communications during team meetings and in future interactions.
- Shared experts: In a contested divorce, each party retains their own experts who fuel the litigation fire. In a collaborative divorce, experts are jointly retained and maintain neutrality. They are there to advise and guide you as you make informed decisions and reach mutually beneficial solutions.
- Win-win: Unlike a litigated courtroom divorce in which the judge ultimately decides the outcome, a collaborative divorce is based on finding solutions that satisfy both parties. This doesn’t mean you get everything you want, but it does mean that you will walk away from the process feeling that any agreements reached were based on compromise and through a process that promotes integrity and dignity.
- No litigation: As part of the process, both you and your spouse enter into a formal agreement called a “Participation Agreement” in which you both resolve to settle the matter out of court. By doing so, you both agree to abide by the collaborative process, commit to avoiding litigation, to openly communicate with each other within the settlement conference setting and to seek peaceful resolution.
- Keep the kids out of it: One of the most common reasons a couple seeks collaborative divorce is to minimize the psychological damage of a hard-fought litigated divorce. As parents, both you and your spouse agree to put the needs of your children first. As part of this agreement, it is important that you don’t badmouth the other parent in front of your children or use them as a “weapon” to get your way. You may be ending your marriage, but you will be a parent for the rest of your life.
Consult with an experienced Fresno divorce lawyer
Do you have questions for an experienced California divorce attorney? Contact Rebecca Medina at (559) 324-5427 to learn more about collaborative divorce.