The “typical” divorce involves filing a Summons and Complaint in the county clerk’s office, having your spouse personally served with a copy of the papers, each party being represented by an attorney and a Justice of the Supreme Court overseeing the proceedings. In a traditional divorce, the pace and scheduling of proceedings, and their results, will be determined by Court rules and a Judge. If custody is contested, an attorney will be appointed for the children, who must meet with them. A psychological evaluation of the entire family may be conducted. Each party may hire and pay for independent appraisers and evaluators to place values on real and personal property, retirement benefits, businesses and other assets. While this process may not lead to a Trial, and most contested divorce actions do not end up being tried, the husband and wife do lose a measure of control over important aspects of their lives. Costs, stress and animosity can escalate.
In the Collaborative Divorce Process, the goal is resolution of all disputes without litigation. Cooperation and candor are key. Unlike mediation, each party has an attorney to provide advice and counsel. A family professional, typically a psychologist or social worker, guides the husband and wife through issues related to custody, parenting time and communication. A financial “neutral,” often a Certified Public Accountant, may be employed by both parties to assist in evaluating assets, projecting budgets and resolving maintenance (alimony) and child support issues. The parties (husband and wife or father and mother) make their own informed decisions.
The team in the Collaborative Process facilitates problem-solving outside the Court system. Collaborative resolution of custody issues forms a solid foundation for post-divorce parenting. Cooperative efforts to identify, value and distribute the marital estate avoid the retaining of financial professionals by each party. All participants have a vested interest in success because abandonment of the Collaborative Process in favor of litigation requires each party to retain different attorneys.
While the initial costs associated with Collaborative Divorce may seem greater (i.e., hiring lawyers and, perhaps, a family professional and/or a financial neutral), the total costs are often less than in a traditional Action for Divorce. The time needed to reach a collaborative resolution is generally shorter than in litigation. The parties retain control over how and when their differences are resolved. Collaboration breeds consensus and the whole family benefits.