You and your spouse are divorcing, but it does not follow that you need to fight each other to the death through litigation. The Collaborative Model is an alternative to a court battle, offering couples solution-based approaches to ending a marriage. Collaborative Practice is different from a litigated divorce in three important respects:
- The couple pledges in writing not to go to Court, and the Collaborative team cannot be used in Court proceedings.
- With the assistance of the Collaborative team, spouses have face-to-face discussions about their issues rather than talking through their attorneys.
- Couples engage in non-adversarial problem-solving with assistance of trained professionals.
If I Want To Use The Collaborative Model, How Do I Talk About It With My Spouse?
If you want to educate your spouse, speak directly with your spouse about a "Collaborative Divorce" option and encourage your spouse to do some independent research on the issue. If your spouse wants to hire an attorney who is trained in Collaborative Law, click here for a list of professionals in the Baltimore area. If you are unable to speak to your spouse and are interested in pursuing a Collaborative Divorce, we can send your spouse a non-threatening letter with information on the process. However, a Collaborative Divorce is something to which both spouses must agree.
What Happens After My Spouse and I Have Agreed to a Collaborative Divorce?
Once you and your spouse have each chosen a Collaboratively trained attorney, the team (you, your attorney, your spouse and his/her attorney) agree on a meeting date. The team comes up with an agenda, which is a list of things to be discussed at the first meeting. Not everything will be tackled on the first day, but any issues which are pressing will be addressed. You meet with your attorney prior to the meeting, to be sure that all the issues which are important to you are addressed. In subsequent meetings, documents and information are exchanged (i.e. assets, debts, retirement accounts, etc.). If you have children, their needs are given high priority and you may meet with a child specialist to help resolve issues. All meetings are held with a spirit of openness and honesty, and with the goal of meeting both spouses' needs. Once the various options are explored, you and your spouse come up with solutions. The final outcome is a separation agreement which best meets the needs of your family. Once you and your spouse are ready for a legal divorce, there is a short hearing rather than a lengthy trial. The benefit is that you and your spouse decide what is best for your family, rather than having a judge make the decision for you.
Who Are My Team Members?
A note about Team Members: The selection of team members depends upon the family's individual situation, and will be determined after the initial four-way meeting. While the attorneys may make recommendations to the couple, it is the couple who determines which team members will best meet their needs. A couple may meet with a team member without their attorneys, for example in the case of a financial neutral, which will help reduce costs.
Although the goal of Collaborative Practice is to avoid going to court, legal agreements are necessary to memorialize the final agreement. The attorneys will meet with each spouse separately and confidentially, to discuss rights and obligations and to advise on relevant legal matters such as issues involving the children, financial issues and property distribution. The attorneys also participate in four-way meetings (attorneys and clients), a mainstay of the Collaborative Process. Collaborative attorneys are specially trained to help keep the meetings safe and productive. The attorneys aim to make meetings a constructive and comfortable place for the parties to create acceptable solutions to the challenges being faced by your family.
Divorce is a major life transition, marking the end of a marriage but also the beginning of a new life. A divorce coach helps spouses come to terms with feelings about the marriage and assists the spouses in framing and communicating their needs. The Collaborative Process also allows the parties to handle any unresolved issues, so that these issues do not become a barrier to resolution.
The child specialist assists the couple in crafting a solution for child custody and visitation, in order to assure that children are a priority, not a casualty, for the changing family. Often a couple will meet alone with a child specialist, who will help them craft a plan for their children. This plan can then be seamlessly woven into a settlement agreement without the expense of two attorneys working over the details. Depending upon your children's ages, the child specialist may meet with your children individually, assisting them in expressing their feelings and concerns about the divorce and encouraging children to think creatively and positively about the future.
The divorce settlement will in part determine your financial well-being for many years to come. It is critical that the financial decisions be soundly structured and that assets be fairly divided, but in a way which does not jeopardize the family. The financial specialist is trained to consider in detail the economic future of your family and help reach creative solutions within the family's available resources.
A vocational coach will assist an underemployed spouse in developing a successful career plan. The vocational coach will explore job options, earning capacity, transferable employment skills, and the need for further education or training. The goal will be to provide a spouse with a template of the steps necessary to enter or re-enter the job market, consistent with appropriate earnings, interests, skills and job opportunities. The coach may also be a resource post-divorce to assist a spouse in career advancement.
If you have questions about the Collaborative Process and whether it is right for your family, contact Kathleen Wobber for a free telephone consultation.
We invite you to contact us for further information.