What is a Collaborative Divorce?
Divorce in Colorado does not necessarily need to result in an expensive, drawn-out court battle. This conventional litigation-driven method is actually the minority of cases; more often than not, parties come to an agreement out of court, and the judge simply reviews and approves it before issuing the final divorce decree.
In collaborative divorces, both spouses hire lawyers to represent their respective interests and negotiate an agreement to avoid taking the case to trial. Collaborative divorces also may entail mediation and arbitration as a means of alternative dispute resolution.
In contested divorces, the following key issues generally need to be resolved:
- Child custody and parenting issues
- Division of property and assets
- Division of debts
- Child support
- Spousal support
If you and your spouse can enter the process with a non-adversarial attitude, there is a good chance of success with the collaborative method. The final outcome must be willingly accepted by both parties, or alternative resolution methods may be required. Each divorce is unique, and the approach to your case must fit your individual needs.
Whether your divorce is litigation-heavy or collaborative depends on you and your spouse. Besides litigation, a collaborated divorce is one of the most common solutions.
What are the benefits of collaborative divorces?
With collaborative divorces, couples commit to a process that will end in a settlement that keeps them out of court. While the solutions may not be ideal, spouses are able to transition from the problems of the present to a mutually beneficial resolution for the future.
The practical, financial, and emotional benefits of collaborative law are:
- Reduced costs – litigation is expensive and involves extensive time and work from divorce attorneys as well as court costs and other fees. Collaboration may take many negotiation sessions, but it is almost always less expensive than going to trial.
- Control – with a collaborative divorce, you remain in control of decisions rather than handing that power to a judge or arbitrator to strictly apply the law. It allows you to tailor an agreement and you only commit to signing a settlement if it is in your interests. Only you may agree to a settlement – your attorney, your partner’s attorney nor anyone else gets to decide what the agreement looks like.
- Privacy – the details of a collaborative divorce settlement remain within the four walls of the offices where you sign it. Unlike with a court trial, details do not need to be made public.
- Lower Stress – because litigation is an adversarial process with a “winner” and a “loser,” many couples find collaborative law stressful. Collaboration is far less intimidating for most divorcing couples and their children/families, rather than taking the stand to testify as a witness in court.
- Relationships – couples who collaborate are more likely to maintain better relationships. This can be better in the long run, especially if there are children from the marriage and parents need to communicate as a “family unit” for their best interests. Because collaborative divorces are less adversarial and less likely to bring up bitter reminders of the past, parents can maintain civility, enabling future collaboration for jointly raising their children.
What happens in a collaborative divorce?
Collaborative divorce, while beneficial, is not without its limitations. Any agreements that are reached during this process are binding, and each party relinquishes their right to contest and litigate the case later on. Further, the parties and their counsel should execute a stipulation not to pursue litigation in the future should negotiations be unsuccessful.
The participation agreement also includes commitments to do the following:
- Disclose financial information via the relevant documents
- Maintain confidentiality and privacy
- Respect all parties involved in the process
- Put the interests of the children first (if applicable)
- Share the costs of external professionals as required (i.e. home/business appraisals)
- Create a written and legally binding agreement to obtain the final divorce decree
Each member involved in the process agrees to the case plan, which is a roadmap for negotiations. Collaborative sessions will then be scheduled on a date when all parties and counsel can attend. These sessions may be held remotely or in person at either attorney’s office.
During these collaborative meetings, partners can receive legal counsel from their attorneys (unlike mediation, where a mediator is unable to provide legal advice). Sessions will aim to reach an agreement between you and your spouse on your key respective interests.
Each meeting may last between three to five hours. You, your spouse, and your lawyers will decide on the agenda and duration of each meeting. Most collaborative divorces require at least five meetings, but this depends on the outstanding issues and the progress made in discussions between the parties.
Along with these “team” meetings where all parties and counsel attend, separate meetings can be conducted if required – for example, with financial advisors or child specialists. Such meetings may be required to address concerns or to derive information required in preparation for the next collaborative divorce meeting with the full team in attendance.
In some particularly challenging cases, the attorneys representing spouses may recommend individual or joint coaches to help the divorcing parties with the collaboration process. These collaborative divorce process facilitators may even attend each “team” meeting to assist.
Collaborative divorces in Colorado have an excellent success rate. However, if the collaborative sessions do not lead to a settlement and the case is taken to trial, each party will need to retain new counsel that was not a part of the collaborative process.
Get help with your divorce settlement in Colorado
To see if a collaborative divorce may be right for you and your particular case, please contact us at Colorado Legal Group to receive a free case evaluation. Call 720-594-7360.