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Collaborative Divorce

What is collaborative divorce?
Many people have heard of collaborative divorce; but most people-- including many family law lawyers-- have only the vaguest notion of what the process involves.   Collaborative divorce does not involve law that is different from what we might call "conventional divorce law."  Rather, it is a process that is intended to avoid the difficulties and the high emotions of conventional divorce litigation.  It is what lawyers and the courts call a process of "alternative dispute resolution."
A hallmark of collaborative divorce is that the attorneys who represent each client will have entered into a contractual obligation to withdraw from representation of the client if an agreement cannot be reached.  This requirement is intended to give all parties involved-- including the divorce lawyers-- the incentive to reach an agreement.  Naturally, then, the collaborative divorce process begins before any petition for divorce is filed with the court.   If an agreement is reached, at that point a joint petition for divorce will be filed, and the marital settlement agreement will be filed with the court.   After the statutory waiting period has expired, the court will grant the parties a legal divorce.
Other features of collaborative divorce include:
Open exchange of documents.  To avoid the expense of protracted discovery proceedings, which frequently includes interrogatories and depositions, the parties agree at the outset to a full disclosure of all relevant documents.
Keeping the children out of it.  Once a formal divorce action is filed, and if there is a dispute over custody and placement of the children, the court is obligated to appoint a guardian ad litem for the children.  This, by necessity, requires the guardian to meet with his or her clients, and determine their input.  Under collaborative divorce, the agreement is already reached by the time the divorce petition is filed and, therefore, the parties may avoid the expense of a guardian ad litem, and the children may be shielded from the difficulties of the process.
Sharing of Experts.  In litigation, it is common for each party to hire his or her own expert witnesses.  In a divorce case, it is common for the parties to hire psyschologists, economists, or social workers to render opinions about the best way to dissolve the marriage.  Requiring each party to hire an expert can be exceedingly expensive.  Under collaborative divorce, if an expert opinion is needed, the parties agree to share an expert and to abide by his or her suggestions.
Is collaborative divorce for me?
Collaborative divorce is a great idea, but it is founded upon a somewhat flawed premise:  That the divorcing parties are able to behave reasonably and will treat each other with respect.  If the parties were able to do that, there might not need to be a divorce.
However, there are couples who are able to set aside their differences in order to minimize the costs, the anxiety, and the damage to the children involved in a divorce. 
If you are that person, then, by all means, look into the process of collaborative divorce.   The Law Offices of Jeffrey W. Jensen gladly provide collaborative divorce services to all of its family law clients.