Divorces are known to be difficult to deal with, for both the spouses and the families involved. The couple needs to make crucial choices about proceeding with the divorce, and who to seek help from. These decisions are important, as they will impact their future plans.
According to government sources, over 800,000 married couples divorce each year in the United States. Most divorces are known to be expensive, as the couples need to manage finances to hire divorce attorneys, mediators, and divorce counselors. They can end up facing financial challenges by the time the proceedings end.
In recent times, several alternative dispute-resolving methods have been explored by couples to stay out of the family court. Divorce mediation, collaborative divorce, and arbitration or private judging are some ways to do so.
Many people are unclear about the concept of collaborative divorce, which is a structured and cooperative out-of-court approach to resolve legal disputes related to divorce. This process can make it easier for the spouses to finalize the divorce, and resolve matters related to spousal or child support and property disputes without a court hearing.
If you’re considering filing for collaborative divorce or have started the process, here are a few tips that can help you through the procedure:
1. Be Clear about Choosing Collaboration Divorce over Mediation
A persistent misconception among people is that collaborative divorce is just another word for mediation. You should be aware that mediation and collaboration may be similar processes, as both help you keep divorce out of the courtroom, but the difference lies in how they function.
Speak to your divorce attorney to get a clear understanding of these methods. He/she will tell you that if you opt for mediation, you will need to opt for a third party, the mediator, who helps the spouses negotiate and come to a mutually agreeable agreement.
Collaboration divorces, on the other hand, do not involve a mediator – there is no mediation. Spouses, along with their divorce attorneys and financial experts, meet to discuss the division of property and monetary support, and they are the only ones who are ultimately responsible for deciding upon a settlement figure (alimony).
2. Be Honest with the Collaborative Team
Ensuring a fair division and settlement in a divorce is imperative for the spouses and their kids (if any). If you are opting for collaborative divorce, you must be completely honest with the collaborative team in order to deal with the matters efficiently.
When both partners disclose details about their earnings, assets, debts, and possessions, then the overall divorce experience can be dealt with transparency and more ease, as there will be less scope for heated arguments, as in litigation. There won’t be an option other than to trust each other, as neither parties will be bestowed with the power of the court to force the other spouse to produce financial records.
Collaborative divorces work on the principles of mutual understanding and the agreement that it is time for the spouses to part ways in a peaceful manner. Failing to be honest will only make the process lengthier, more expensive, and stressful.
3. Make Decisions That Are Fair to Both Partners
When filing for divorce, there is nothing like ‘winning’ a divorce. The collaborative divorce approach can help you avoid lengthy and expensive litigation sessions. So, it will be easier if you don’t turn your divorce into a competition and try to ‘win’ negotiations.
Sit with your spouse and his/her attorney with the mindset that you want to resolve disputes related to your marriage, and not to gain the ownership rights to everything. Be prepared to listen to your spouse’s expectations with an open mind and explore fair ways that are accommodative of both your demands. Sometimes, you may even have to compromise on certain aspects to reach an agreement.
4. Plan a Timeline for the Divorce
Collaborative divorce processes can be difficult at times, as you’ll need to spend considerable time to discuss matters that are important to your spouse and you.
Try to make it easier and discuss the matters that are truly important to both of you. Sticking to the meeting’s agenda and maintaining a checklist can help you with this.
Discuss your priority list with your divorce attorney before entering the negotiations with the other party. You’ll need to clearly specify the things you will not walk away without, and the things you are ready to give up. Having clarity on financial and personal matters can make the discussion sessions shorter and smoother for both of you.
If you have children, make sure you keep the parental access decisions separate from the financial decisions. Remember not to use either of these aspects to influence your position on the other.
Impulsiveness can provoke you to use child custody or visitation rights in place of possession of property and assets, without thinking whether or not it is in the child’s best interest.
5. Gather Your Financial Documents
Divorce cases depend heavily on property, assets, debts, investments, and mortgages. For a fair division of these aspects, documentation plays a key role in collaborative divorce approach. This is because there is no court involved to summon the official papers.
Your financial account records, phone records, and even car notes can be relevant to the divorce. Gather all documents that you think you’ll need for your case before you file for divorce. In case you have shared ownership of your house, car, and investment portfolio, then it is better to make copies of everything before meeting with your attorney.
It is a common practice among divorce attorneys in New Orleans and other areas to ask for your personal financial records and details from your shared online accounts, as well. Doing this not only helps in deciding the alimony amount, but also makes it easier to assess the valuation of properties and assets owned by both spouses.
You must be on your best behavior, and must try to work in harmony with your partner throughout the divorce process if both of you have agreed to an out-of-court settlement approach. It is often difficult for couples to deal with divorce without professional intervention, as they may get too emotional about the matters involved. This is where the collaborative divorce process comes in, as negotiations in the presence of lawyers and financial experts can mitigate potential difference in opinions and make it possible for spouses to separate in a peaceful manner.