Collaborative Divorce

“Conflict is inevitable but combat is optional.”

~ Max Lucado

Why Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce is the holistic and supportive approach to divorce that helps couples complete the process of separation in a cooperative environment and without going to court. It’s a good model for couples who worry that they “don’t know what they don’t know” about how to proceed.

For couples with children, this model frequently results in better communication between parents after separation, which greatly helps the children’s transition to two households.

What It Is

The collaborative process is a small group approach that thoroughly addresses all aspects of a divorce – legal, financial, and emotional.  In additional to the couple, the team is made up of:

  • A lawyer for each spouse (to provide independent legal advice and negotiation expertise);
  • A neutral facilitator (a professional with a counseling/therapy background who manages the process gently, and guides group meetings);
  • A neutral financial professional (to answer questions about real-life cash flow, tax, and retirement account scenarios); and
  • If necessary, for negotiations about custody and parenting schedules, a child specialist (a mental health professional who meets with the children and can make recommendations)

Spouses meet individually with their own lawyers, and can meet individually or together with the facilitator and/or the financial professional as needed.  The team meets together several times to help the couple work through all of the issues that need to be negotiated: child custody and parenting schedule; division of finances, property, and debts; child support; and spousal maintenance (alimony).  For support and maintenance, the lawyers and financial professional can advise the couple about the effects of following the formulas contained in the law and can help them explore other ways to calculate those items as well.

All professionals have specialized training in this process and commit to working cooperatively.

The outcome is a written, binding Separation Agreement which can be used to obtain a no-fault divorce without going to court, either immediately after signing or at a later time.  The spouses can choose which one will be the one to initiate the divorce, and that spouse’s attorney can file the paperwork.

Even with the assistance of the “neutrals,” this model is usually less expensive than traditional litigation, and couples maintain control over the process and outcome, as well as their privacy.

What It Isn’t

Collaborative divorce isn’t a good forum for spouses who want to hide information or punish/embarrass the other for past behavior. This is a model that requires spouses to freely discuss their needs, their finances, and their children’s best interests.

“After working in court for many years, I saw many relationships between couples or family members needlessly disintegrate as their cases progressed. I questioned whether litigation was really solving problems for people, or whether it was doing more harm than good in some cases. I wanted to help people achieve what they needed without having to dig up “dirt” on the other side, take extreme positions, or create a situation where the children feel caught in the middle. Collaborative Law involves attorneys who are specially trained to help the parties achieve an agreement that is as amicable, personalized, and realistic as possible. It also incorporates emotional support and financial expertise so that all aspects of a separation or divorce are addressed completely. It’s an ideal model for many couples.”

- Gemma Corbin

For more information about how Collaborative Divorce works and how it differs from Divorce Mediation, email us to ask for our Process Comparison Chart.  You can also schedule a call with Gemma Corbin here for an initial discussion and to ask questions about the divorce process, potential costs, and next steps.

Gemma Corbin is a member of the International Association of Collaborative Professionals, the Central New York Collaborative Law Professionals practice group, the New York State Dispute Resolution Association, and the Association for Conflict Resolution-Greater New York chapter.