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Should You Consider Collaborative Divorce?

Despite New York City being number one in both population size and population density of American cities, it is amazing how much people know about each other in personal and professional circles. If you are facing a New York divorce and would like to keep your family affairs as private as possible, you might consider whether the collaborative divorce process is a good choice for your goals.

Collaborative law basics

Collaborative family law grew out of a desire to create a divorce process without a primary focus on conflict. As such, the divorcing parties agree to resolve their legal issues through respectful, confidential negotiation outside of the court process in a series of four-way meetings. One of the main pillars of the process is that if they cannot resolve their issues this way, their attorneys must withdraw from representation and the parties must retain new legal counsel to proceed in traditional divorce or another alternative like mediation.

Collaborative participants

The four main participants are the two spouses and their respective attorneys. While normally in divorce, the lawyers do not talk directly to the opposing parties, in collaboration, it is truly a four-way discussion. In addition, the spouses may decide to hire neutral professionals to participate and provide information the parties need to make informed decisions. Neutral experts might include:

  • Financial or tax advisors
  • Parenting experts
  • Mental health professionals, including divorce coaches who help the parties get through the emotional stress of negotiation while maintaining dignity and respect as well as through communication impasses
  • Appraisers or real estate brokers
  • Child therapists or psychologists
  • Anyone else needed to provide information or support to the collaborating parties

The collaborative contract

A participation agreement kicks off the process and in addition to the terms we have already discussed, includes these unique provisions:

  • Commitment to honesty, good faith and a dignified, civil process
  • Commitment to provide all relevant information to the process such as financial, investment, income and asset details

Pros and cons

When it goes well, collaboration can produce creative resolutions to legal issues like child custody, alimony and property division that might not be what a judge would have chosen, but that work for the family. If the negotiation progresses smoothly, it is often cheaper and faster than litigation. It may be less stressful or traumatic for the parties and their children, and those who must co-parent minor children after it is all over may have a stronger relationship from which to help their kids.

But collaboration is not the right choice for every divorce. Anyone contemplating divorce should discuss the circumstances in detail with an attorney who does collaborative as well as traditional divorce to gain an understanding of whether collaborative divorce is a good option. For example, if one of the parties has a history of dishonesty, abusive behavior, substance abuse or mental health problems that would make working together problematic, another option may be better.




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