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What is a Collaborative Divorce and How Can it Save Me Money?

By Leigh Sellers

A collaborative law divorce is a process that has gained significant popularity in many states across the country. Collaborative divorce attorneys are trained in the collaborative process and must maintain proficiency by periodic trainings. The approach is not the same as a traditional adversarial proceeding.

For as long as divorce has existed, many people have felt that the process of divorce is destructive and ill-suited for people who must remain in contact with one another to raise children or who have a very complicated situation that does not translate well into the framework of a courtroom. For people wishing to seek a less hostile divorce, or deal with sensitive issues, the collaborative process may be the answer.

In a collaborative divorce, the husband and wife each have their own collaborative law attorney to ensure each side is represented and knowledgeable about the legal aspects of the issues. But, unlike a traditional divorce that involves court filings which take extreme positions and list grievances, a collaborative divorce works by direct and open communication between husbands and wives. Further, in a court proceeding, there is a very cumbersome and expensive process by which attorneys collect documentation and information to establish their case. In Collaborative Law, attorneys and parties engage in an open exchange of ideas and information needed to resolve the matters.

In a collaborative divorce, husbands and wives meet together with their attorneys to collectively discuss issues of dispute with a goal of problem solving. To foster open disclosure and communication, and to avoid threats of litigation, both spouses are required to sign an agreement stating their intention to resolve all matters without going to trial.

If either spouse decides to take his or her case to court, each of the two attorneys must withdraw from further representation of the parties. As a result, the threat of trial is minimized and parties are dedicated to resolving disputes through mutual agreement.

So how does this save money? The most expensive part of litigation is the cost of preparing specialized documents that must conform to a set of procedural and evidentiary rules. The formal documents take time and in the legal world, time is money.

In litigation, there are also certain time lines set by law that will control the speed of certain steps of the process. These timelines can drag the process out much longer than needed, and that means neither party is going to have their financial needs met timely or have a resolution needed on their personal timeline. Litigation also requires court appearances. The court sets these court dates with no regard to the participant’s obligations. So court dates can cost you time away from work. Further, the caseload of a busy county, like Mecklenburg, means that more cases are scheduled that the Court has time for on the given date. So, your attorney might prepare for the case, and if there is no time, they have to refresh and prepare the next time it is scheduled. This costs the parties more money in attorney fees.

Another cost of litigation comes by way of enforcing the order that a Judge ultimately enters. No court order is perfect and I have never met anyone who is 100% satisfied with the result. People are simply more compliant with a solution they had a part in crafting. There are far fewer problems with agreements or consent orders that are reached as a result of collaborative work as opposed to solutions imposed on them.

There is a non-monetary cost to litigation, too. There is no more destructive force on a family or relationships that contested litigation. People suffer from stress. Parties who are making decisions for the sole purpose of producing an outcome in court are not truly living their life. Going through litigation is like being held captive. Nothing you do, say, spend or make, belongs to you alone anymore. Nothing is private. Nothing is above disclosure. Divorce and separation is painful and stressful enough without choosing the most destructive legal process available.

For more information, visit the Collaborative Divorce website, http://www.charlottecollaborativedivorce.org/.

To see if Collaborative Divorce is right for you, contact a trained collaborative lawyer and discuss your situation.

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