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Collaborative Divorce v. Litigation
Posted in Estate Planning

Many couples contemplating divorce today ask, what makes collaborative divorce different from traditional divorce litigation?  In a previous blog post, I briefly explained collaborative divorce, a relatively new alternative to the traditional process of divorce, and provided an overview of why many couples choose this form of dispute resolution.  But what separates collaborative divorce from traditional divorce litigation?

A traditional divorce case is court-centered, with legal rules and procedures governing the process.  If spouses do not agree, a judge makes final decisions regarding financial and parenting issues.  Even with the majority of traditional litigation that settles outside the courtroom, cases typically are designed in preparation for trial, with spouses postured as opponents, and adversarial arguments and positions developed by lawyers. 

A collaborative divorce is client-centered, with the spouses’ goals and interests governing the process.  Since spouses commit to stay out of court, the process is designed to reflect the clients’ wishes and to facilitate negotiation and resolution around all issues of importance to the couple and their family.  Clients communicate directly with each other in a supportive team setting, rather than communicating through lawyers.  Conflict is managed and handled respectfully, rather than escalated.  As in all cases, clients are assured of an understanding of the law, but the role of the law is to supplement rather than to limit spouses’ authority and creativity in reaching mutually agreeable outcomes to a wide array of issues, including but not limited to legal ones.

Divorce is an extraordinarily painful experience – according to some researchers, it can be one of the most emotionally traumatic experiences that a person can ever face.  It can be fraught with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.  The collaborative divorce process allows specially trained attorneys and other professionals to work with clients “where they are” and to help guide them to a more positive future as parents and as individuals.  Every client should review the options available to them and choose the process that best serves their needs, now and in the future. 

For more information on collaborative divorce, visit the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals website.

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