Five things you should know about collaborative divorce

This article looks at five aspects of collaborative divorce, including some advantages and misconceptions.

Collaborative divorce is growing in popularity, but misconceptions about it persist

Divorce is never easy, but in many cases going through litigation can make it that much harder. In recent years collaborative divorce has grown in popularity as an alternative to the traditional litigated approach that some couples had found too confrontational. There are some serious benefits to collaborative divorce, including cost savings and less emotional trauma, but there are also a lot of misconceptions about this relatively new area of family law. Below are five major aspects of collaborative divorce that may help provide greater clarity about the process.

1. It's a team effort

Perhaps collaborative divorce's most defining trait is the number of parties that are involved. Not only does each spouse have their own attorney, as CNBC points out, but other advisers, including therapists, child behavior specialists, financial experts, and others may also be part of the effort. Having such a wide range of expert voices can help divorcing spouses make smart decisions on topics they may not otherwise be overly familiar with.

2. Collaboration is not mediation

As U.S. News & World report notes, a rather persistent misconception about collaborative divorce is that it is just another word for mediation. While mediation and collaboration are similar in that they both strive to keep divorce out of the courtroom, they also differ in some fundamental respects. In mediation, the mediator helps spouses negotiate and come to a mutually satisfactory agreement. In collaboration there is no such mediation. Spouses, with the assistance of their attorneys, are the ones ultimately responsible for negotiating a settlement.

3. Honesty is key

Each party in a collaborative divorce must be completely honest in order for the process to work properly. This need for honesty is both collaborative divorce's biggest advantage and biggest pitfall. When both parties are honest about items such as income and assets, then the overall divorce experience can be much less stressful than litigation. Failing to be honest, however, is a serious problem since neither party will have the power of the court to force the other spouse to produce financial records.

4. Protecting children

Collaborative divorce's main advantage is usually listed as its cost effectiveness, but just as important for many people is its ability to protect children from witnessing their parents fighting through a litigated battle. The emphasis on resolving differences through negotiation can reassure children that their parents' divorce will not necessarily lead to major disruptions in their lives.

5. Is it right for everyone?

Just like with litigated divorce, collaborative divorce is an option that works for some people, but not for everyone. If both parties can treat each other as equals while also standing up for their own rights, then collaboration may succeed. If, on the other hand, one party has been the victim of domestic violence or is simply uncomfortable standing up to their former spouse, then the protection of the court would likely be a much more appropriate route.

Family law

Because every family's needs are unique, it's important to consult with a family law attorney who can honestly and openly inform clients who are considering a divorce about whether collaboration may work for them. Such an attorney can provide advice on the different divorce options that are available and how each one may be applied to a person's given situation.