What Is Collaborative Divorce?

Divorce is often portrayed as acrimonious, but it doesn’t have to be. Many advocates have worked in recent years to encourage a kinder alternative to court arguments.

Collaborative divorce takes place when a separating couple reaches an agreement about how to divvy up assets and responsibilities while avoiding the court system.

This style of divorce can have myriad benefits, experts say. “If you can get it done in a collaborative divorce framework, that’s the best,” says Alphonse Provinziano, a family law specialist and senior trial attorney at Provinziano & Associates.

[Related:How to Get a Divorce]

What Is Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative divorce is a type of alternative dispute resolution in which both parties work to resolve their divorce and avoid litigation.

“The magic of the collaborative model is really in the participation agreement,” says Raiford Dalton Palmer, managing partner of STG Divorce Law and author of “I Just Want This Done: How Smart, Successful People Get Divorced Without Losing Their Kids, Money, and Minds.”

Ideally, divorcing collaboratively is less stressful and faster. It involves mediation to reach agreements without court involvement.

A collaborative divorce will also delineate who has what parenting custody and visitation agreements.

[Related:What Are Irreconcilable Differences?]

What Are the Benefits of Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative divorce has a range of upsides. For example, it can benefit children by prioritizing avoiding conflict and promoting communication, which can help a future co-parenting relationship.

The process can be gentler and smoother. For example, it may include agendas for each meeting and ground rules such as allowing one person to speak at a time, Palmer says.

That’s “so people feel heard and they feel like they’re in control of the process rather than having a runaway train,” he says.

Palmer adds, “In collaborative (divorce), they’re sitting across the table from each other and that can be super cathartic. They can resolve some of this stuff that is more emotional than legal, or the emotional stuff is wrapped around the legal.”

What Are the Challenges of Collaborative Divorce?

Not every divorce is an ideal match for this type of dissolution. In a divorce where there are issues such as abuse or neglect, collaborative divorce is likely not the best route, Palmer says. In a particularly venomous divorce where parties do not agree on even the most fundamental aspects, it is not likely to succeed, he adds.

“If you’ve got a major conflict where it’s a black-and-white situation like an abuse or a neglect situation, (or) children where somebody wants sole custody, that case is not going to be well suited,” Palmer says. “If people are diametrically opposed on a major issue, it’s probably not well suited.”

[READ: What Is Family Law?]

Who Is Involved in a Collaborative Divorce?

Ideally, this process should have an interdisciplinary team that includes mental health professionals and other experts.

A child specialist may make an appearance during this process. Additionally, a financial analyst might be involved to ensure someone neutral is expertly looking through assets, and a therapist should be involved to ensure any decision-making is cordial and emotionally thoughtful.

“It takes a team of professionals,” Provinziano says.

Couples should first think about the goal, he adds.

“What’s the best solution for your goals and your budget, and what’s your timeline? If you go to court, it could take years,” Provinziano says. “An agreement can take days.”

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What Is Collaborative Divorce? originally appeared on usnews.com

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