A divorcing couple's decision on how they divorce is therefore very important. Collaborative divorce is designed as an alternative to litigation and encourages problem-solving and construction communication to reach a settlement that is agreeable to both parties.
The collaborative divorce process begins with the divorcing parties, their attorneys and other professionals (if desirable) entering into a binding contract not to litigate the divorce. Before the case is even filed, the spouses agree to negotiate constructively to reach a divorce settlement. If the collaborative settlement efforts fail and the case proceeds to litigation, the contract requires all professionals to end their representation.
The collaborative spouses and their collaborative divorce attorneys hold a series of meetings where the attorneys advise and assist, but the spouses negotiate crucial elements such as custody and parenting time, spousal support, property, and other concerns. To promote civility, co-parenting skills and positive post-divorce communication, the spouses might agree to bring in additional collaboratively-trained professionals, such as financial professionals, mental health professionals, child specialists (psychologist or social worker) and/or divorce coaches.
Because the collaborative approach involves the direct participation of attorneys in divorce settlement negotiations and a multi-disciplinary team approach, it is well suited to cases involving complex financial or custody issues, or where spouses have unequal financial expertise or negotiating skills. Collaborative (and out-of-court) divorce requires both parties to fully disclose assets without court order, to negotiate in good faith, to respect agreements and to consider the legitimate needs of children or the other party. If either or both parties refuse to do so, the litigation approach may be preferable.