Kathleen J. Smith, Attorney at Law
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Collaborative divorce: keeping it out of the courtroom

A lot of divorces involve lengthy court battles and adversarial attitudes. Couples may not realize that they have the option of avoiding court altogether. A method called collaborative divorce allows the divorcing spouses, with the help of a small team of third-party members, to discuss and reach agreements about matters like property division and child custody.

Some of the benefits of this method include:

· Cheaper than traditional litigation

· Usually a faster process

· Settlement is personalized to your family's situation

· Less feelings of hostility or resentment afterwards

How do I know if collaborative divorce is right for us?

It is important to realize that collaborative divorce only works if both of you are willing to negotiate and settle your matters outside the courtroom. If either of you is unwilling on these two fronts, collaborative divorce will not work.

Most couples who choose this route are ones who can agree on some matters but not others and who both have an interest in avoiding court battles. If you want to avoid court but you disagree on almost every matter in the divorce, you may want to consider your goals. Are you willing to negotiate on every aspect of this or would litigation better meet your desires for the outcome? Do the pros of each choice outweigh the cons? The decision will all depend on your situation and what is best for the family.

What does collaborative divorce look like?

In collaborative divorce, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse will each have a lawyer to help with negotiation. However, you all must sign an agreement saying the lawyers will only represent you outside of court. If you end up going to court after failing to negotiate, you will need new lawyers. This ensures that keeping you out of court is in their best interest.

You will meet with your lawyer alone first, to discuss your goals and your limits on settlements. Then, all four of you will meet to begin talking about any relevant matters. Your lawyer can help you stay on track with your goals and assist with the negotiations.

A financial professional may also be part of the process. They can determine the value of your assets to give you a better sense of a fair division agreement. If needed, a therapist and/or mediator can also be involved if emotions run high or there is a lot of dispute about a particular point.

If you are considering collaborative divorce or want to know more about your divorce options, contact a skilled family law attorney who has experience with out-of-court divorces. They can answer questions and guide you on what to do in your situation.

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