Most of us have witnessed the dramatic implosion of a divorcing couple. There are often threats of violence or financial ruin. Children are used as pawns. Reputations become ruined. Through the traditional litigation approach, the parties place their lives and their dirty laundry before a Judge to determine their future. The process is expensive, and generally neither party walks away satisfied. A better option with much less drama is Collaborative Divorce.
What is a Collaborative Divorce? This is a process wherein the parties and their attorneys sign a contract and create a “team” to resolve their divorce without going to Court. The Team is comprised of the parties, their attorneys, and any other specialists needed to help them resolve the case. In the contract, parties vow to resolve the case outside of Court and maintain transparency in their actions throughout the process. The team works together in a series of joint meetings to exchange financial information; divide the assets and debts of the parties; establish a custody and parenting arrangement; then determine child support and maintenance.
What if the parties do not reach agreement? When problems arise in the collaborative process, the team may enlist the help of a mediator, therapist, counselor, financial specialist, appraiser, or any other professional as needed. Ultimately, if the team is unable to reach agreement, the parties may agree to cancel the collaborative process and go to Court.
How is this process different than mediation? A mediator is a neutral third party. Mediators are hired to negotiate an agreement between the parties, and sometimes draft the agreement. A Mediator does not represent either party, and therefore cannot draft any of the documentation necessary to open or finalize the divorce, nor can they provide legal advice to either party. Parties often hire one attorney believing they are a “mediator” that represents both parties. BEWARE!
Why is Collaborative Divorce better than an uncontested divorce using one attorney? If a couple goes to the same attorney for an uncontested divorce, they often believe that the attorney is working for both parties. An attorney is ethically bound not to represent parties with conflicting interests unless specifically waived by the parties. When only one attorney is hired in a divorce, they typically represent one party and the other spouse gets no legal advice. This may be satisfactory to both parties in some cases, but it is always wise to seek legal advice before signing any contract. In a Collaborative Divorce, both parties have the benefit of legal advice, can minimize their legal costs, and generally walk away with a more fair and equitable settlement.
How do I find a Collaborative Lawyer? Not all divorce attorneys are Collaborative Lawyers. Special training is required to learn and apply the collaborative principles. There are only a small number of divorce attorneys in Northern Kentucky which have received that training. You can learn more about this process at Hoffmanlawyer.com/collaborative-divorce/ and can find a Northern Kentucky collaborative lawyer at NKYDivorce.com.