The Collaborative Process Takes A Much Different Path For Your Family Than Litigation
A family beginning the divorce process is often in the midst of turmoil and entangled in uncertainty. Questions like: What do we do? How do we get out of this? How do we start? What will it look like? What will happen to the kids? What will happen to our stuff? What will happen to my relationship with the kids? How much will it cost? How long will it take? How nasty will it get? Those answers differ drastically depending on which path through divorce you choose. The Collaborative Process is starkly different from litigation.
The first difference is how they begin. The Collaborative Process begins with a team meeting with the parties and professional to go over the Participation Agreement, the roadmap for the process and the parties’ goals and concerns. A litigated divorce starts with the filing of the Petition for Dissolution – a lawsuit – against your spouse that may also require the Sheriff to serve your spouse with a summons. From the outset, the tones are immediately different charting the path to the end.
Information is gathered and processed differently as well. Litigation requires a formal discovery process with court mandated time periods that can be manipulated or stringent, but follow procedures outside of the parties’ control nonetheless. In traditional discovery, both attorneys typically do the same work compiling, reviewing and exchanging the information creating double expense for the parties. By contrast, a Collaborative Team includes the parties in discussing and determining what information is important, where it comes from, how it’s gathered and how it’s processed. The time periods are controlled by the parties and the information presented is usually compiled by only one professional, saving time and expenses. Once the information is gathered, the Collaborative Team is far less constricted by a Judge’s opinion and the rigors of positional bargaining, so the parties and the professionals are able to freely think of and try out innumerable scenarios for things like support, maintenance and property division that fit best for the family.
The Collaborative Process offers far more opportunities for a family with children to discuss and resolve parenting schedules and address the children’s needs. Typically the Collaborative Team includes a coach or a child specialist, who is a trained mental health professional, with tremendous experience dealing with families, parenting time, special needs and the anxiety that naturally comes with attempting to plan out a separated family’s new schedules. In litigation, there is little assistance from the court or the statutes in making these decisions, and the family is largely left to the luck of how well they or their litigation attorneys work together to reach agreements in an adversarial setting.
Finally, the end of the two roads are also remarkably different. While they both end with a court appearance called a “prove up,” where the Judge reviews the agreements and enters the Judgment declaring the parties divorced, litigated prove ups often end with the parties rarely talking during the appearance and regularly taking separate elevators when it’s done. Routinely, the Collaborative Process has kept the relationship in tact to the point where the parties arrive together and leave together, both acknowledging their new lives separate but still connected.
The differences between litigation and collaborative divorces are discussed in detail with super lawyer Beth McCormack in the 4th installment of the Collaborative Resolution Pod Cast: Collaborative Resolution Project Podcast