How Does a Collaborative Divorce Work?

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Collaborative divorce is a process that allows couples to resolve their divorce outside of court in a cooperative and non-adversarial manner. The collaborative divorce process benefits couples seeking to end their marriages with a positive, teamwork approach. Even if your spouse and you have very different ideas, the collaborative divorce team can help you devise a plan that works for both of you.
A collaborative divorce is a process in which divorcing couples work together with their respective attorneys and other professionals to reach mutually agreed-upon resolutions without going to court. The collaborative divorce process is designed to be cooperative, transparent, and focused on finding solutions that meet the needs and interests of both parties. Here’s an overview of how a collaborative divorce typically works:
  • Voluntary Participation: Both parties must voluntarily agree to participate in the collaborative divorce process. This commitment is usually formalized through a participation agreement, which outlines the principles and guidelines of the collaborative process.
  • Team Approach: Each spouse is represented by their own collaboratively trained attorney. Additionally, a collaborative divorce team may include other professionals, such as financial specialists, mental health professionals, and child custody experts, depending on the couple’s specific needs.
  • Open Communication: The collaborative process emphasizes open and honest communication. The parties and their attorneys commit to working together respectfully and transparently to find solutions that benefit spouses and children.
  • Meetings and Negotiations: The divorcing couple, along with their attorneys and other professionals, attend a series of meetings to discuss and negotiate various aspects of the divorce, including property division, child custody, spousal support, and other relevant issues.
  • Problem-Solving: The focus is on creative problem-solving. The collaborative team encourages the parties to explore different options and alternatives to find acceptable solutions for both sides. This often involves brainstorming and considering the long-term implications of decisions.
  • Neutral Experts: In some cases, impartial experts, such as financial professionals or child specialists, may be brought in to provide expertise and guidance. These experts remain neutral and work to assist both parties in reaching fair and informed decisions.
  • Drafting the Agreement: Once the parties reach an agreement on all relevant issues, the collaborative team helps prepare a comprehensive settlement agreement. This agreement is a legally binding document outlining the divorce terms, including the division of assets, spousal support, child custody and visitation arrangements, and other agreed-upon terms.
  • Court Approval: In the final step, the settlement agreement is presented to the court for approval. Since the divorcing couple has already agreed through collaboration, court proceedings are typically streamlined, and the divorce is finalized more efficiently.
  • No Court Litigation: One of the key principles of collaborative divorce is the commitment not to go to court. Suppose the collaborative process breaks down, and one or both parties choose to pursue litigation. In that case, the collaborative attorneys must withdraw, and new attorneys must be retained for court proceedings.
Understanding between sides and communicating each other’s needs is most important in this process. Best of all, through collaborative divorce, you can keep the decision-making power in your own hands instead of giving that power to a judge who doesn’t even know you. Going through the collaborative approach means that your divorce could be finalized in a few months instead of a lengthy court battle that can take upwards of two years. Legal fees are considerably less in conjunction with the time it takes to complete your divorce resolution filing.
Hugh O’Donnell has been helping couples gain the benefits of collaborative divorce in Kansas City since 2001 when he introduced the process to Missouri and Kansas and trained other attorneys. If you feel collaborative divorce may be right for you, contact Hugh F. O’Donnell Family Law at (816) 533-5152 to schedule a consultation.