Collaborative Divorce

If you are at this page, you’ve probably been researching divorce and attorneys and maybe child support and/or alimony and filing fees and all kinds of other “stuff” that’s been going through your head, or you would not be here now. You’re hurting. You just split up. Or you just learned your spouse wants out. Now what?

And maybe you’ve run across your county court divorce website or the DHS Child support website or you’ve visited several divorce attorneys or their websites or talked to them on the phone, or talked to your friends and family and heard all about the horrors of divorce court. The time it takes, how public it is, how neither side leaves the courtroom happy – and blah blah, blah.

THERE IS A BETTER WAY!

What if, there was a way to end your marriage and still be able to have a civil conversation with your spouse?

What if, when any of your children are graduating from high school or college or getting married or having their first child, you and your ex-spouse could talk and laugh and know that EVEN though you went through a divorce, you still respect each other and were there for your kids and can acknowledge to each other: Hey, we did a darn good job, in spite of it all.

What if you don’t have to air all the dirty laundry in a public courtroom?

COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE IS THE BETTER WAY.

Any divorce is hard. There are lots of things to think about, to do, to deal with. Finances, as well as kids and the spouses themselves, can be stressed to a breaking point. A lifetime of building that “togetherness” that is marriage is being shredded. What once burned hot and thrilling has become ashes and dust.

Divorce is a process.

Find a lawyer, or not. File a petition. Split up assets. Assign responsibility for debts. Decide on custody and parenting time, and holidays suck now and then, oh no! The new “significant other” to deal with. And if you don’t reach agreements on these things yourselves, then, after a maybe long and nasty and public trial, a total stranger, a judge, makes the decisions for you. Is that what you want?

Collaborative divorce is a process of dealing with all of that in a way that lets you and your spouse make ALL the decisions, based on what you and your spouse decide is best for each of you, your children, your finances, your assets, your debts, and everything else that relates to the relationship called marriage.

Through the Collaborative Divorce process, you still need an attorney, one trained in the collaborative process. You also may use a divorce coach, because attorneys just don’t have the in depth training to help with the emotional turmoil that divorce puts you through. Even if you are the one who is ready to “get it done”, you will still have turmoils and issues to deal with. Even if it’s just understanding WHY your soon to be ex-spouse is having such a hard time with it all, a divorce coach can help smooth the way. You may also need a financial neutral, a person that helps both spouses understand the current financial situation and how to get it where you both want it to be for your kids, if you have any, and for yourselves. And if your kids have issues, they may also need a child expert.

All of the professionals mentioned above who practice in the collaborative divorce area will have been specially trained in the process, as well as for the issues and emotions and STUFF that goes along with a divorce. You may be asking – WHY is this different?

It’s different, because all of the professionals and both spouses will sign what we call a Collaborative Participation Agreement, in which all parties and professionals agree that they will NOT take the case to court, except for the final “you are now divorced” hearing. It doesn’t mean that you absolutely cannot litigate your divorce. It just means that if you decide to, OR if your spouse decides to, after having signed the participation agreement, then ALL of the professionals MUST withdraw from your case, and each of you have to hire, at a minimum, new attorneys. But, you also cannot utilize any of the collaborative professionals in your litigation case against your spouse in any way. Neither can you utilize the documentation or disclosures received by each party while in the collaborative process. You can’t call the financial person as an expert witness. You can’t call in the divorce coach, either yours or your spouse’s. And the collaborative attorneys cannot help your new attorneys.

It’s different, because the Participation Agreement is what makes collaborative divorce a process that works. It is a huge incentive for each spouse to avoid having to start over, for you each to stick with the process, get through it, and make the most beneficial use of your time and of the professionals that you hire. Most people find it a much healthier way to get divorced – for the spouses, the kids, even for in-laws and significant others if any, as well as minimizing stress.

It’s different, because if you have children, their needs and what is best for them is one of the highest priorities.

It’s different, because we utilize Interest-based Bargaining instead of Position-based bargaining. In a litigated divorce, the parties usually have particular things they want and ways they expect things to happen. Those are positions. In the collaborative process, we explore why you or your spouse takes certain positions, and focus on your interests. We help the two of you with problem-solving because of your individual interests. This also helps with your post-divorce lives, because it fosters open communication with each other so that you can plan for your own futures, as well as the futures of your children.

It’s different, because the process demands full-disclosure of facts and information.

Its different – because the process relies on R E S P E C T – you can still be angry, you can still be hurt, but for the collaborative process to work, you must be able to give respect to your spouses, and expect it back for yourself. You will find that if you can remember to respect each other, respect their feelings, and respect their interests – even if you don’t agree with them, the normal conflict that usually accompanies divorce is minimized. Usually, so is the anger and the hurt, or at least it can be easier to handle.

It’s different, because the two of you must commit to using a problem-solving approach, you and your spouse keep control of the process, and you don’t go to court.

The next question is usually – it sounds expensive, or, is it cheaper? Depends. The cost of any divorce is dependent on a myriad of factors – how many assets you have, the kinds of assets, do they need valued, whether you need QDRO’s (Qualified Domestic Relations Orders) for retirement accounts, how much you and your spouse are fighting, how ready each of you are for what is happening. There is usually one spouse more prepared than the other. But, even if you’ve both known for some time the break up was coming, you still have things to deal with that no one else can make the decisions about. Well, unless its a judge. Go sit in some divorce trials. They aren’t pretty.

And this is true in any divorce, whether you and your spouse are able to work it all out yourselves, through mediation, collaboration, or litigation. The issues are still the issues, they still have to be handled. It’s HOW they are handled that make the collaborative process a better way. If all of the professionals are utilized, then yes, it might be some what expensive, but it’s unlikely to cost as much as litigation. In a litigated divorce, you have attorneys whose job it is to “get” everything they can for you, no matter the emotional cost and devastation. The courts drive a lot of the time frame, as well as a lot of the unneccessary time that attorneys spend at the court house waiting for a case to be called.

However, in the collaborative process, you and your spouse are the drivers, guided by the professionals you’ve hired. Not the attorneys. Not the judge. Not some full docket court system that has to get through a daily docket as expeditiously as possible. Your funds are spent on actual time working on the issues in your case. Not on a lawyer waiting their turn at the courthouse because there has to be a status conference in front of the judge. And, at the end of it all, you very possibly might be able to say: Wow, that was hard, but it was SO worth it!

So, if you are ready to get divorced, or if you are ready to start working on it, and you want to have confidence in yourself and be able to respect your spouse and his or her views, and you want to get through the process of divorce with less stress on yourself, your spouse and your children, this process may be for you.

If you and your spouse can at least try to treat each other with respect, and you want to attempt civil discussions about the issues in your marriage, and you can agree to full disclosure of all assets and other issues, then it could be that you need to give a collaborative divorce professional a call.

You don’t have to start with an attorney. You can find all of the members of the Oklahoma Academy of Collaborative Professionals listed on the OACP website at www.yourdivorcechoice.com. You may want to start with a coach or a financial person. Check it out. Ending your marriage is tough, but you don’t have to add to the pain when there is a better way.