When a divorce makes a sad time and end to family hopes and dreams, we all know that there is costly litigation in the offing. High conflict arguments over who was “righter” and who was “wronger” are inevitable.  Arguments over equitable distribution and who gets what cash, assets, and things are a foregone conclusion during divorce proceedings.  We often suggest with divorce the same approach with child custody.  If you can avoid protracted litigation and finding ways to settle out-of-court, you do it (within reason).  Taking a chance on having a third-party make such life affecting decisions for you can often result in a conclusion that is contrary to your expectations.  This is where collaborative divorce comes in.

Collaborative divorce is gaining momentum as an alternative dispute resolution process for divorcing couples.  While it’s unlikely in high-conflict situations to work, it’s not entirely impossible.  Dragging things through the family court system is both mentally and physically exhausting.  It’s also incredibly costly.

We agree with the prevailing opinion of many, including plenty of divorce attorneys, that it’s always best for couples to decide the outcomes of such sensitive issues like:

  • Equitable distribution
  • Alimony (if applicable)
  • Child custody
  • Child support

…on their own.  Once the government is granted access to control your lives, and that’s exactly what happens when you divorce, particularly when there are children involved, it’s extremely difficult to get them out of it.  Obviously, it takes the individuals involved to avoid operating out of greed and vindictiveness to find a level of compromise and consideration that probably didn’t previously exist during your marital relationship.  That’s a tall order.

Let’s highlight some of the pros and the cons associated with entering the collaborative divorce process…

The Pros:

  • Working together to maximize child custody time for both parents as fitness, schedule, and logistics allow is better for the parents and children alike.  Children need both parents in their lives and shared parenting works.
  • Collaborative divorce includes working with a professional team covering legal issues, financial issues, child custody considerations, and even psychological professionals to help the couple come to a beneficial and mutually agreeable settlement.
  • You keep your case out of the courts and their judgments that may disregard much of what you hope to gain from working cooperatively.  It leaves you with more control over your life prior to and after a settlement is reached.
  • You eliminate the risk of lawyer’s courtroom tactics, including false claims, conjecture, and embellishments that are normally used to sway the opinion of the presiding judge.  You also avoid engaging in the usual level of mutual mudslinging with your ex-partner that is always a part of contentious divorce proceedings.
  • Collaborative divorce typically offers many possible outcomes, whereas divorce litigation offers one – whatever the judge decides.

The Cons:

  • The easiest thing for us to do is point to the above “Pros” list and say, “Consider the opposite of all of those.”
  • Much more substantial costs associated with litigating your matter.  It will take significantly longer to come to a conclusion that is ultimately in the hands of a judge.
  • If the collaborative divorce effort fails, the “best” case scenario is that the advisor team withdraws from the current process and a new team is convened to try again.  Of course, you’ll be starting over from scratch.  The “worst” case scenario – litigation.
  • It requires both couples to be open and honest about all of the important issues that are necessary to come to a mutually agreeable conclusion with collaborative divorce.  Of course, if the effort fails, all that shared information will undoubtedly become part of your divorce case.  Still, a failure to be completely forthright during the collaborative divorce process means you’re wasting your time before you even get started.
  • It doesn’t eliminate the possibility of divorce litigation.

Collaborative divorce is worthy of consideration primarily because you take the final decisions over equitable distribution, alimony, child custody, child support, and more out of the hands of an impersonal judge who presides over countless monotonous cases every single day.  It’s puts the decision-making back into the hands of you and your ex-spouse.  We know it’s hard to imagine that a divocing couple can cooperate long enough to see through a successful collaborative divorce process, but the truth remains that the significant negative aspects of a prolonged divorce case are worth considering such an alternative.

Read also: Top 5 Divorce No-Nos