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What is a Collaborative Divorce?

By Alan E. Freed

You’ve decided your marriage has no future, or perhaps your spouse has announced they no longer want to be married to you, or maybe you’ve been going to a marriage counselor and you and your spouse have come to the realization that divorce is your best option.

Traditionally, when a couple decides to end their marriage, they hire lawyers and use the court process to resolve the division of their property and debts, to determine how to care for their kids, and to work out spousal and child support.

Collaborative Divorce offers a different approach to the end of a marriage, one that focuses on the family’s unique needs, a forward-focused process that helps a family plan for its future.

In a Collaborative Divorce, each of the spouses engages an attorney trained in interest-based negotiation and the Collaborative Process. The couple also engages a financial professional and a mental health professional as part of their problem-solving team. All of the professionals have received mediation training, and all pledge to work together for the benefit of the family.

The financial professional helps the couple gather relevant financial information, including assets, debts, incomes, and expenses, and makes sure the couple thoroughly understands the data. The mental health professional assists the couple both by keeping them engaged in productive communication and also by using child development expertise to assist the couple in crafting a parenting plan geared to their children’s specific needs.

All of the participants in the process, professionals and clients, sign an agreement at the outset of the process, pledging to voluntarily disclose relevant information and to negotiate in good faith. If another professional is necessary, such as a real estate appraiser or business valuation expert, the couple jointly engages one such professional, rather than engaging in a battle of the experts.

In the great majority of cases, the couple will come to a mutually acceptable resolution, at which point the lawyers write the necessary agreements and file all of the documents with the court for its approval. In those rare cases when agreement is not reached, the lawyers will withdraw from representation and new lawyers will be engaged to conduct a more traditional divorce process.

Couples who work through the Collaborative Process emerge with a thorough understanding of their agreements, because they were integrally involved at every step of the process. There is also a good chance that any future disagreements can be resolved peacefully, because the couple has established a track record of peaceful resolution through the Collaborative Process.

In a world in which conflict has too often become the norm, Collaborative Divorce offers a path to a cooperative conclusion to a marriage and a thoughtfully planned future, something particularly valuable to families with children.

Contact a St. Louis and Clayton, MO collaborative divorce attorney at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal to see if Collaborative Divorce is a good option for your family.


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