woman taking off her wedding band; divorce

What Is a Collaborative Divorce?

By Bob Matteucci

If you and your soon-to-be former spouse want an amicable divorce that is a win-win situation for both spouses and your children, you might want to consider getting a collaborative divorce. Using collaboration can help you avoid the permanent damage that a contested divorce and nasty trial can do to your long-term relationship, particularly if you have children. 

A New Mexico collaborative divorce attorney can explain how collaborative divorce works and help you evaluate whether this approach might be beneficial in your situation. The first step is to answer the question, what is a collaborative divorce? 

A Quick Overview of Collaborative Divorce

If you and your spouse decide to try to resolve the issues in your divorce through collaboration, you will each hire your own attorney and then assemble your collaborative divorce team. The people you need a new team will depend on your circumstances. For example, if you have children, you will benefit from hiring a child specialist who will provide guidance on issues like custody and visitation. 

You might want to use a financial specialist if you have a small business, a significant disparity of income between the parties, high net worth, or substantial debt. A professional with experience in handling special needs issues in a divorce can be valuable if either parent or any of the children has special needs. 

Typically, both spouses and their lawyers sign a “no court” agreement the first time the four of them meet together. This document says that if either spouse walks away from the collaborative process and goes forward with a contested divorce in court, the lawyers will withdraw. The parties will have to hire new attorneys. This factor provides a financial incentive for both the parties and their lawyers to continue negotiations. 

Collaborative divorce involves a series of meetings between the spouses and their lawyers to address specific issues, sometimes with one or more of the specialists present. The goal is to work together in an environment that is supportive, cooperative, and respectful to resolve all of the pending issues. When collaborative divorce works, the only involvement of a court is for a judge to review, approve, and sign the settlement agreement and other necessary papers. 

How a Collaborative Divorce is Different from a Standard Divorce

In a standard divorce, the parties can fight about virtually any issue or detail that they choose. Sometimes people will spend thousands of dollars in attorney fees fighting over a $20 item. A standard divorce can be a highly adversarial process. Some people manage to have purely non-contested divorces without going through collaboration, but when people have decided to end their marriage, there is often at least one issue they could not resolve without a dispute. 

The Differences Between a Collaborative Divorce and a Mediation

A collaborative divorce keeps your lawyer involved, as opposed to mediation, in which a third party, the mediator, often meets with the parties without their attorneys in attendance. Mediation usually involves only three parties, the two spouses and one mediator. A collaborative divorce involves at least four people, both spouses and their lawyers, as well as a number of specialists to provide guidance in specific fields. 

In a collaborative divorce, divorcing spouses can:

  • Control the outcome of a divorce
  • Make decisions regarding issues such as child custody and spousal support jointly
  • Obtain professional advice from a team of specialists on issues related to children and finances
  • Maintain a positive relationship with the other spouse
  • Spend less money on litigation, motions, and other court proceedings

A New Mexico Family Law Attorney can help you decide if a collaborative divorce is a good option for you. Contact Bob Matteucci today.

About the Author
Bob Matteucci is a board certified family law specialist, with a statewide practice in the area of divorce and family law.