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Collaborative Divorce Process

The Collaborative Law Process Act was passed during the last legislative session and signed into law on March 24. The law creates a pathway to a more civil and less contentious way for couples to, in the words of Gwyneth Paltrow, “consciously uncouple”. It’s an awkward phrase, but not a bad concept.

How it works

In a collaborative divorce, each spouse hires his or her own attorney, just as in a traditional divorce. However, the resemblance to a traditional divorce ends there. Each of these attorneys signs an agreement that if the collaborative process fails, they will be “fired” and new attorneys will be hired to handle the case at trial. It gives the attorneys a powerful incentive to help their clients come to an agreement. In a traditional divorce, the attorneys earn more (much more) if the case goes to trial.

After the attorneys are hired, a mental health expert is chosen to help manage the collaborative process and to help the spouses deal with the emotional trauma of the divorce. The mental health professional is especially valuable when there are minor children, and a parenting plan needs to be worked out. If there are financial issues (and there usually are) an accountant will be added to the team to help work out the financial settlement. In a traditional divorce, each party would have to hire an accountant. The collaborative process only requires one.

When the team has been chosen and is in place, everyone meets to examine and try to solve all of the issues of the case. The number of meetings that are necessary varies from case to case. But however many meetings are required, the collaborative process is faster than a traditionally litigated divorce. It can take months simply to get your first hearing in a traditional divorce case, and more than a year to get to trial. The collaborative process is more efficient and your divorce will be finalized more quickly.

The collaborative process is also more private than a litigated divorce case. Court records are public records, including your financial affidavit and final judgment. Trials are public trials. In contrast, the collaborative meetings are confidential,. You will be able to keep your family’s business private.

The collaborative process is relatively new. Most people have never heard of it. Those of us in the professions of getting people divorced are wildly enthusiastic about it. We see the devastation that the court process can bring to an already fragile divorcing spouse. We see how long it can take to heal after a bitter divorce fight. We see how often children are terribly hurt by their parents’ fighting. And we see how much better, how healing the collaborative process can be. So instead of a divorce that tears you down, consider a divorce that can help you get ready for your new life.

Attorney O’Neill has been trained in and is a great believer in the collaborative process. If you want to know more, call for a free consultation.


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