Divorce conjures up images of bitter spouses and parents fighting in court, lawyers going at each other’s throats, and judges handing down orders that bring financial ruin to one spouse or the other. This certainly does describe the reality of some divorces. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Collaborative divorce offers an alternative.
At Matteucci Family Law, Attorney Bob Matteucci explores possible divorce options that best suit the needs of his clients. One service that Bob offers is collaborative divorce. If this approach is right for you, he can help.
What is certified collaborative divorce?
A collaborative divorce begins with a different set of values than the traditional process. Whereas most divorces are concerned with winners and losers, protracted litigation, and heartbreaking disappointment, collaborative divorce aims to end your marriage in a mutually respectful and beneficial way. To “collaborate” means to work together, and that’s what the parties and their attorneys will do.
Most people understand that divorce can be financially and emotionally exhausting. When parties are working against each other, these are the inevitable results. Along with these experiences come distrust, anger, and often a feeling that the other spouse is taking advantage of you. Collaborative divorce is designed to change this destructive model.
You will still have your own attorney, and there is still divorce paperwork that has to be filed. But in place of distrust, the parties commit to openness and transparency. Instead of anger, the couple can focus their emotional energy on their and their children’s needs. Rather than feeling like you’re being exploited by the other spouse, the objective is a “win-win” outcome.
Collaborative divorce shouldn’t be confused with mediation. For one, with mediation, the parties may still be seeking a win-lose outcome for themselves in the form of trade-offs and compromises. Mediation is also, in general, less concerned with managing how the divorce will affect the spouses and their children. That aspect of the process is left to the parties to handle on their own.
How does it work?
The first thing you will need to do to participate in a collaborative divorce is to hire an attorney who has special training and is certified in this area of law. Collaborative divorce is not something that just any lawyer is capable of doing. Your spouse will also need to retain a certified collaborative divorce attorney and both lawyers will actively participate in the process.
Both spouses will pledge to not go to court and to instead work out the divorce themselves (and with the assistance of their attorneys). This decision is serious because if either party decides to exit the collaborative approach, both attorneys must resign and the two spouses have to hire new lawyers.
The parties will also commit to an honest exchange of information related to marital finances and other matters. In the traditional divorce, spouses obtain this sort of information by means of lengthy and expensive discovery methods that might include subpoenas. Conversely, openness is a core value of the collaborative model.
After meeting privately with your attorney, you and your spouse (and their respective legal counsel) will conduct a series of meetings to start putting together a settlement agreement. Also involved in these meetings is a team of professionals that may include:
- Financial specialist. This individual will help the parties gather critical financial information, value and divide assets, understand the long-term financial implications of the divorce, and much more.
- Child specialist. The child specialist speaks with the parents and the children to assess their needs and concerns. The child specialist’s goal is not to take sides or decide custody, but to work with the parents so they can make thoughtful decisions with their child’s best interests in mind.
- Relationship counseling professionals. These persons act as divorce coaches to facilitate open communication and negotiation between the parties. They also help the spouses deal with the frustration and anger that naturally accompany divorce, but in a manner that’s conducive to the collaborative process.
As the parties reach an agreement on the issues arising out of their marriage, the lawyers will begin drafting the necessary settlement paperwork. Your attorney will review these documents, explain what legal significance they have for you, and make revisions as needed. Once the complete and comprehensive settlement is reached, it is submitted to the court for its review and filing. There are no court hearings. The only obligation the spouses will then have is to abide by whatever is agreed upon in their settlement.
Advantages of a Collaborative Divorce
As you examine your options, consider a few of these common advantages to pursuing a collaborative versus traditional or litigated divorce:
- Controlling the outcome of your divorce versus having a stranger (the judge) make decisions for you
- Deciding financial and custody issues jointly with the other spouse
- Having input from a team of professionals who can advise you on child, financial, and related matters
- Protecting your privacy due to collaborative divorces being handled in confidence rather than public court
- Avoiding fights and ego contests between lawyers since the goal is not to defeat the other spouse
- Obtaining a mutually agreeable outcome that has the best interests of both sides in mind
- Not having to worry about conflict with the other parent, so you can focus on your child’s long-term development
- Staying on good terms with the other spouse, making the transition to post-marital life easier
- Saving money versus the cost of endless litigation, motions, contempt proceedings, and more
Cases Where Collaborative Divorce Is Not a Good Option
Collaborative divorce isn’t for everyone. Cases in which the spouses distrust each other, cannot productively communicate with each other, or have a history of making accusations against each other, are probably not well-suited for the collaborative approach. This method is also not recommended for divorces involving allegations of domestic violence or child abuse.
Contact a New Mexico Collaborative Divorce Attorney Today
Before deciding which option is best for you, give Matteucci Family Law a call. Bob Matteucci is trained to conduct collaborative divorce, and he is happy to answer any questions you have. No matter what sort of divorce or family law matter you have in your future, he can assist you. Schedule your confidential consultation with Bob today. Contact our office!
Matteucci Family Law Firm helps families with collaborative divorce matters all across New Mexico including Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Los Lunas, and Rio Rancho.