Divorce does not have to be an adversarial process but the alternative requires that both parties exercise reason, strip away animosities and have the willingness to compromise. There are plenty of horror stories about how much a contested divorce costs in financial and emotional terms but it need not result in that. In resolving a dissolution, there are alternatives to the “traditional” divorce, or adversarial process, including an approach focusing on collaboration between the parties.
Collaborative divorce is a specialized area of domestic or family law and an alternative dispute resolution procedure. While mediation, as an alternative to litigation, is a common and often effective means of resolving family law disputes, it does not always solve all the issues in a divorce matter and may leave the parties unsatisfied in many respects.
What is Collaborative Law?
Collaborative law is a method of alternative dispute resolution where the attorneys for both parties mutually agree that the matter is not to be litigated or go to trial. The parties meet in a spirit of cooperation while exchanging records, and information and conducting discussions in a humane manner with compromise in mind.
Unlike a mediation, the attorneys can be involved in all discussions. Other professionals can be, and are usually, involved in the process such as a neutral financial expert or business appraiser whose duty is to both clients. If there are issues of child custody or in drafting a parental plan, a family or child psychologist, social worker or other professional may be involved. Some processes utilize a coach or facilitator who helps both parties rationalize their positions or approaches to the other.
The goal, of course, is a satisfactory resolution of all the issues including parental or child custody and visitation matters, property distribution and spousal maintenance in a way that leaves both parties on friendly and respectful terms when the divorce becomes final, absent any animus or anger.
Role of the Collaborative Law Attorney
Although there is no litigation, your divorce lawyer is still your advocate. Your attorney should advise you on the law and how it applies to your situation and your goals and the consequences of certain outcomes, such as tax obligations. One essential role is analyzing the finances of each party with the objective of reaching a settlement on property disposition and what your situation will look like after the divorce is concluded. Your attorney can advise you on the likely outcome of certain issues based on prior experiences and case law.
As you learn about your spouse’s position and the financial status of each, your lawyer will continue to counsel you and to suggest compromises if needed.
The experience of your Massachusetts divorce lawyer is vital in another respect. Since emotions sometimes erupt, your attorney can be a sounding board and the voice of reason. An objective, unbiased and rational approach is the best way to counsel a party whose emotions are overruling reason.
Settlement proposals are made by both parties and counsel and these need to be evaluated in light of your objectives. You and your counsel can discuss these and determine if the offer fits within your goals or if certain exchanges can be made that may not entirely satisfy both parties but at least achieve a resolution.
Benefits of the Collaborative Process to You
The collaborative law process is beneficial to anyone regardless of the complexity of the case or issues. The benefits include:
- Lack of an adversarial approach
- Compromises are encouraged
- Attorneys are trained and skilled in the process
- Open communication and easy exchange of information
- Working with professionals in other disciplines regarding specific issues such as finances, business valuations, child issues
- Assistance with easing the transition to life after divorce
- Fostering a spirit of reconciliation and cooperation that will continue when the dissolution is completed
- Minimal court involvement—only needs approval of final disposition
- Generally less costly than traditional approach and faster
The collaborative approach is entirely voluntary. At any time, a party may decide that things are not working as expected and decide that another avenue is needed. If so, other counsel will take over and a number of certain issues or other matters discussed in the collaboration will be inadmissible if litigated.
Consult The Law Offices of Michael F. Mimno
Not all family law practices are alike. Michael F. Mimno is a Massachusetts divorce lawyer who has handled thousands of cases and helped countless clients to achieve their goals and to get to a satisfactory life after divorce. Discuss with him whether the collaborative law approach is right for you. To schedule a free consultation contact Attorney Mimno in either his New Hampshire office at (603) 479-1152 or his Massachusetts office at (978) 470-4567.