If you and your spouse are contemplating ending your marriage, you may be hesitating because you dread the thought of a contentious legal battle. It may surprise you to know that many family law attorneys have felt the same way, so they began developing more peaceful methods of divorce during which couples can come to civil agreements about their issues.
One of those methods of alternative dispute resolution is collaborative law. You and your spouse may agree that a collaborative process may help you reach your goals with far less acrimony and stress than a traditional, litigated divorce. Understanding how the collaborative method works is the first step to determining whether it is appropriate for your situation.
A very different breakup
Collaborative divorce is exactly what it sounds like. You and your spouse collaborate to reach a settlement that is agreeable to both of you. With guidance from your individual attorneys, you negotiate the common issues of divorce until you reach a resolution. Some important details to know about collaboration include the following:
- Negotiations occur in a neutral setting with you and your attorneys. No judge or mediator presides.
- It is important to keep the discussions positive but to feel free to speak up for what you hope to achieve in the settlement.
- You will discuss matters including asset division, child custody, support payments and any other issues you need to resolve.
- If you get stuck on an issue, you have the right to hire professionals, such as child advocates or financial advisors, to join the discussion and offer opinions.
- You, your spouse and your attorneys must commit to the process. If negotiations break down and you decide to go to trial, you must start over with new attorneys.
- The collaborative process is often faster, less stressful and less expensive than a litigated divorce.
Many couples also find that by using alternative dispute resolution methods instead of going to court, they have a more positive relationship with their former spouses than they would after a legal fight in front of a judge. They also end up with a settlement that is more agreeable to both and less likely to raise problems in the future. These benefits can be especially important if you have children to co-parent.
Not every Maryland attorney is skilled at collaborative family law, and it is important to find one who is committed to this less contentious process. If your attorney has experience in collaborative law, you are more likely to have an advocate who will support your efforts toward a more civil divorce.