Collaborative Divorce: Is It An Oxymoron?

We all have our favorite oxymoron – a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear together. Some are humorous: “jumbo shrimp,” “awfully pretty,” or “original copies.” If you were asked if you have a favorite of your own, you might reply, “well, that’s a ‘definite maybe.’”

What about a popular term that is thrown about in legal circles: “collaborative divorce?” How can a divorce ever be “collaborative?” You may have thought divorce has to be a knock-down-drag-out war. Well, as more and more couples are finding, the two words can – and in many instances, should – go together.

Collaborative Divorce: What is it Really?

Collaborative divorce is a process in which the couple and their separate legal counsel agree at the outset not to file contested court documents (or even threaten to do so) and, instead, agree to negotiate in good faith in order to reach an amicable dissolution of the marriage. In some instances, the parties and their attorneys sign a “no court” agreement that requires the attorneys to withdraw from the case if a settlement is not reached and the domestic dispute goes to court.

During the process, other professionals (financial advisers, child or family specialists, and the like) may be called upon to assist the couple and their attorneys in coming to an agreement. Once the agreement is reached, the parties finalize it with the court. Generally, no evidentiary hearing is required at that point.

Collaborative Divorce Takes the Marital Relationship Seriously

At its heart (yes, that term is used advisedly), collaborative divorce recognizes that:

  • The dissolution of the marriage is inevitable
  • That rancor and hatred are unnecessarily destructive, particularly when children are involved
  • No one is well served by airing the couple’s “dirty laundry,” particularly in a courtroom setting
  • If successful, the collaborative divorce can forge a civil, lasting post-marriage relationship in which everyone, particularly the children, are protected

Typical Scenario

In the typical collaborative divorce scenario, the parties:

  • Agree to exchange and complete the exchange of all relevant financial information
  • Negotiate an equitable division of property interests
  • Provide for adequate support for the children
  • Arrange for reasonable custody and visitation arrangements
  • Determine how to manage other post-dissolution issues

Collaborative Divorce Can Save

Although not in every case, collaborative divorce can save time, since negotiations can proceed at the pace the couple desires, rather than at the pace dictated by a judge. Collaborative divorce can also save money, since costly litigation is avoided. Perhaps even more important, a collaborative approach can save the parties – and any children – from an acrimonious and destructive battle. While collaborative divorce isn’t the solution in every difficult situation, more and more couples are turning to it as an appropriate alternative to divorce court.

Is Collaborative Divorce For You?

Attorney Nicole Bolan, of Bolan Law Group. has extensive training in collaborative law, has been on the Executive Board of the Collaborative Law Professionals of Pierce County, and is a member of Collaborative Divorce Tacoma. If you are considering divorce, establishing a parenting plan, or wishing to modify a parenting plan or child support order, please contact us on the web, or call either our Tacoma office or our Puyallup office at (253) 470-2356 to learn more about the many benefits of the collaborative law approach.

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