What Is The Collaborative Divorce Process?
A collaborative divorce is one in which a divorcing couple utilizes professionals including collaboratively trained lawyers, financial planners, and divorce coaches to reach an agreement without the uncertainty and stress of litigation in court. Both parties must be willing to negotiate and work together to achieve a mutually agreeable arrangement for the collaborative process to be effective. However, collaborative divorce is not limited in its use to only amicable situations. Even when there is tension and conflict between spouses, with the guidance of experienced professionals, agreements can be reached. For couples with children, parents who use the collaborative divorce process greatly reduce the stress of the divorce for their children. Of course, there are situations, such as physical abuse, where the process is not appropriate.
Collaborative divorce also has the benefit of being cost effective. The necessary tasks of the collaborative process are assigned to professional specialists without the duplication that happens in litigation, resulting in cost savings for both parties.
Each spouse retains their own attorney, who will then advocate for them in negotiations the same as they would in court. Attorneys experienced in collaborative divorce such as Hugh F. O’Donnell Family Law in Kansas City are skilled at reaching a win-win agreement while diligently representing their client’s individual interests. Both parties meet with their attorneys privately to discuss their desired outcomes, including how to divide assets and debts as well as custody, support, and visitation of minor children, and alimony. They will also determine which other professionals, such as a mental health coach and/or a financial planner, to include in the process.
After the individuals have met with their attorneys privately, the next step is meeting with the other party and their counsel. At this first group meeting, all parties will sign a “no court” agreement that will hold each accountable and allows both attorneys to withdraw from the case if either spouse decides to cease the collaborative divorce process and litigate in court. This provides incentive for both parties to stick with the process even if negotiations become difficult.
Collaborative divorce frequently requires several group meetings to reach a mutually agreeable settlement. Once the terms have been agreed upon, the attorneys will draft a settlement agreement for both parties to sign. The settlement agreement is then signed by the judge and becomes the final judgment of divorce.
Hugh O’Donnell has been helping couples reap the benefits of collaborative divorce in Kansas City since 2001, when he introduced the process to Missouri and Kansas, as well as training other attorneys in the process. If you feel collaborative divorce may be right for you, call Hugh F. O’Donnell Family Law at (816) 533-5152 or click here to schedule a consultation.