Sometimes in a divorce it can seem like you have no control over any decisions about your future. When you litigate a divorce, you often give up control of what will happen.
A judge will issue an order dividing your assets and dictating custody and visitation based on the evidence presented to the court and submitted during a hearing. Or the attorneys will assist in negotiating a settlement that you feel you have had little or no say over some or many of the terms.
One of the advantages of a Collaborative Divorce is that you and your spouse, with the help of your attorneys, can discuss what is important to both of you. This provides you with the opportunity to winnow down the issues into what really matters for your lives, your family, and your children. With the help of your attorneys, you and your spouse can then come to an agreement on these issues and avoid fighting over them before a judge.
If you’re not satisfied with the conditions in a divorce decree, you may be able to appeal—but the appeal process can take years, sometimes costing you more than the divorce case itself, and in the meantime, you’re still required to abide by the divorce decree. Going the collaborative route can ensure that you are satisfied with the outcome (even if you and your spouse aren’t necessarily getting everything you want).
What a Collaborative Divorce Can Do for You
In a Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse will have the benefit of bringing in a neutral financial expert and a mental health professional (who serves as a communications coach) to help provide clarity on the what decisions that you are making.
Key Decisions to be made:
- Children’s education
- Will you change school districts?
- Where will you and/or your spouse move?
- Can you and your spouse agree on schooling issues for your children’s best interests?
- What are you and your spouse willing to do to help your kids to (or through) with their college education?
- Dividing assets
- Is it important for one of you to keep the marital home, or should you sell it and split the proceeds?
- Are there any assets you entered the marriage with that are still in existence and that you would like to keep?
- What financial protections, if any, should be put into place for your children?
- Custody and Child Support
- Will you share legal and physical custody? If not, who will be the primary legal or custodial parent?
- How will visitation be accomplished? What makes the most sense for your work schedules, your kids’ school schedules, and driving distance?
- What will happen if visitation needs to be canceled?
- What type of notice will be required before you take your children out of state?
- What type of notice will be required if you plan to move out of state?
Asserting Yourself in a Collaborative Divorce
There may be concerns that your spouse will attempt to take over the Collaborative Divorce process and impose their decisions on you.
Fortunately, this is not a problem when you have your own attorney, a financial neutral, and a mental health neutral who can ensure that both sides are provided an opportunity to be heard. These neutrals can also help reframe requests or questions so that the other person hears what is truly being asked.
For example, demanding “I need a new car” can be a good way to stop a discussion in its tracks, especially if the other spouse is concerned about their own post-divorce finances. But emphasizing one’s need for more reliable transportation can open the conversation to additional options. The neutrals can keep the discussions on track and help avoid getting sidelined by past grudges or irrelevant considerations.
When a divorcing couple uses the Collaborative Divorce process, they can end their marriage on their own terms—not the judge’s and not their lawyers’. For many, this process can provide one with a greater sense of power over their own life and future.