By: Johanna E. Blumenthal
This part one of a two-part series on Collaborative Divorce in Colorado addresses what collaborative divorce is, who is involved, and some reasons that couples who are divorcing choose this process.
Collaborative divorce is an alternative disputes resolutions (ADR) process which couples can choose to engage in when they have decided to end their marriage, but would like to avoid the negative effects often associated with contested litigation. The goal of a collaborative divorce process is to reach a full out-of-court divorce settlement through a series of meetings between the couple and their Collaborative Divorce Professional Team (see below). It is a transparent process in which everyone involved agrees to operate in a manner that is honest and forthcoming. Please note, this does not mean that the process will be 100% pleasant, after all a marriage is still ending and no process no matter how smooth can remove the emotional, financial, and formal stresses associated with a divorce. Some states have even adopted statutes regarding collaborative divorce. Colorado is not yet one of them.
Who is Involved?
The Collaborative Divorce process typically involves 6 major players: you, your spouse (referred to in collaborative divorce as clients rather than parties), your attorney, your spouse’s attorney, a collaborative divorce facilitator (CDF) and a Financial Neutral (FN).
The CDF and FN are both neutral professionals that will be jointly chosen by you and your spouse. The CDF’s role consists of organizing the process, working with the couple to figure out the major terms for the parenting plan (if children are involved) and ensuring that both clients are getting what each need out of the process. The CDF is typically a trained mediator, coach and/or mental health professional. The FN’s role is to handle the financial aspects of the divorce, including ensuring he necessary financial disclosures (Which the court requires) are completed and working with clients to make informed decisions regarding the finical agreements that hey are discussing. The FN may create projected budgets for the clients and advise as to how they may be able to meet financial goals such as purchasing a new home or funding college tuition.
Each of the client’s will choose your own attorney for the collaborative divorce process. The attorneys will handle all of the paperwork that needs to be filed with the court in order for the couple to obtain a divorce. They will advise you regarding your legal rights and responsibilities. The attorneys will advise you as to whether a contemplated settlement is or isn’t something a court might order. You and your spouse respectively will have attorney-client privilege with your respective attorneys just as you would if you were litigating the case. Your collaborative attorney will never share information without your consent; however, in the spirit of the collaborative process, which is a transparent one, your attorney may encourage you to share certain information with the rest of the collaborative team if the attorney believes it is material to the agreements being discussed.
Why to Choose Collaborative Divorce
Although collaborative divorce isn’t for everyone, here are some reasons why people choose it.
Timing: Couples can choose their own timeline for the various steps in the divorce process (there are no court-imposed deadlines or consequences for not meeting those deadlines;
Privacy: couples can maintain a better sense of privacy (there are no appearances or chances that others in the community might see them at court)
Structure: Collaborative divorce has aspects of mediation with the added benefit of more structure (the collaborative team sets agendas for each meeting and ensures the process is progressing)
Satisfactory Resolution’s: many couples choose this process because it offers them the chance to come up with more creative solutions that meet their family’s needs than a judge would. This can result in better outcomes for everyone.
Agency and Autonomy: The collaborate divorce process is driven by the clients not the court and not the attorneys. Everyone on the team works to meet client goals and to advise them how to get there.
- Future Benefits: The collaborative divorce process encourages the parties to work through problems themselves with respect and a desire to meet each other’s needs. These skills help couples to continue doing this after they are divorced, which for almost all collaborative divorces results in no post-decree litigation and allows parents to be effective co-parents.
Stay tuned for mote on collaborative divorce . . .
*In addition to legal representation in the traditional divorce litigation setting, Plog & Stein, P.C. is also able to offer Collaborative Divorce representation.