Q: What's the difference between Collaborative Divorce and conventional divorce? [ top]
A: Collaborative divorce is about helping clients solve their own problems. In a conventional divorce, the parties give up control to lawyers, to the court's procedural requirements, and to judges. They choose this as the way to resolve their disputes.
In a conventional divorce, a husband and wife are of necessity, and by definition, forced into the adversarial roles of plaintiff and defendant. The fight simply moves from bedroom, to lawyers' offices to courtrooms; there is never a winner. The resulting conflicts take an immense toll on the entire family's emotional health and well-being, especially the children's.
Collaborative Divorce, however, is a non-adversarial approach. Litigation is not an option during the Collaboration. To solve your problems, you actually sit down at a round table in a law office with your spouse, your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer. A four-way Collaboration Contract is signed and the problem solving begins immediately. No court dates, no judge’s orders. The first order of business is for you, the clients, to tell us, the lawyers, what is most important to you and your family and what you need to have happen to move through this transition in life in the healthiest way possible. Your lawyers have pledged in writing not to go to court and to act, at all times, in complete good faith. As the Collaboration begins, you work with people who are committed to achieving mutually agreed upon settlements outside the courts. Collaborative Practice eases the emotional strains of a breakup, and protects the well-being of children.
Q: What’s the difference between Divorce and Dissolution? [ top]
A: A couple Petitions the Domestic Relations Court for a Dissolution of their marriage once they have reached total agreement upon all issues which need to be resolved in their particular case, i.e., custody, support, and division of assets and liabilities. If a couple has been unable to reach agreement on even one little issue, the entire matter must be placed before the legal tribunal for decision by a judge by filing a Complaint for Divorce. With Dissolution there are two petitioners; with a Divorce there is a Plaintiff and Defendant.
Q: What's the difference between Collaborative Divorce and Mediation? [ top]
A: In mediation, an impartial third party (the mediator) assists negotiations between two parties and tries to help you settle your case. However, the mediator cannot give either of you legal advice or be an advocate for either of you. If there are lawyers for each of you, they may or may not be present at the mediation sessions, but if they are not present, then you can consult them between mediation sessions. When there's an agreement, the mediator prepares a draft of the settlement terms for review and editing by both you and your lawyers.
Collaborative Divorce allows you both to have lawyers present during the negotiation process to keep settlement as the top priority. The lawyers, who have training similar to mediators, work with their clients and one another to assure a balanced process that is positive and productive. When there is agreement, a document is drafted by the lawyers, and reviewed and edited by you both until everyone is satisfied.
Both Collaborative Family Law and mediation rely upon voluntary, free exchange of information and commitment to resolutions respecting everyone's shared goals. If mediation does not result in a settlement, you may choose to use your counsel in litigation, if this is what you and your lawyer have agreed. In Collaborative Family Law, the lawyers and parties sign an agreement aligning everyone's interests in resolution. It specifically states that the Collaborative attorneys and other professional team members are disqualified from participating in litigation if the Collaborative process ends without reaching an agreement. Your choice of mediation or Collaborative Practice should be made with professional advice.
Q: How does Collaborative Practice minimize the hostility of many divorces? [ top]
A: Many marriages break down because of an inability to communicate about important issues, whether they involve sex, money or raising the kids. Fear and anger naturally fill the vacuum that was once occupied by caring and love.
Traditional divorces, and the court system, are not designed as a time or a place to facilitate communication. There is nothing there to help you make your spouse understand what you need to have understood. In fact, at that point in time the talking is not between the parties but is rather directed to the judge, who is there to adjudicate, not to care about your family.
On the other hand, the guiding principle behind Collaborative Divorce is respect. Collaboration, by definition, requires each spouse to work with the other spouse to solve what is really bugging each of them. The process requires each party to listen to what the other party needs to say. Once everyone is heard…really heard, then we go about sorting out the real problems. This cannot be done unless you put yourself, and your spouse, in the safe environment the Collaborative Divorce Process provides.
Yes, you are allowed to be angry and you are allowed to be hurt. But you will be heard. And you will be safe. You don’t have to be friends, but you will be respected for expressing your opinion. And if one person desires settlement, he or she had better be prepared to listen to what the other spouse needs to have done to get it done. The lawyers keep everyone's expectations in check, and help manage the inevitable conflict. The lawyers' presence encourages respectful tones so you can safely show compassion, understanding, and cooperation. Collaborative professionals are trained in non-confrontational negotiation, and help keep discussions productive. The goal of Collaborative Divorce is to build a settlement on areas of agreement, not to perpetuate disagreement.
Q: How does Collaborative Divorce actually work step by step? [ top]
A: When you decide that you wish to take advantage of the benefits of Collaborative Family Law, you and your spouse's first step is to hire two Collaborative Lawyers. If you only know one such lawyer, he or she will be able to recommend several other names of collaboratively trained attorneys. There is also a roster of lawyer members of the Cincinnati Academy of Collaborative Professionals.
The lawyers that you choose will schedule your first four-way meeting (2 clients and 2 lawyers). The meeting will usually be at one or the other attorney's office. The next step will be to sign the Collaboration Contract. A copy is available on this site.
Then you will begin to tell us your stories, and explain your concerns, hopes, fears, goals and interests. The lawyers will listen carefully to what is important to you. In addition to all of this very personal information, you will each be asked to provide documentation of whatever financial information you have. The lawyers will be cataloging all of this, to help come up with options for sorting it all out in a way that makes sense for you and your whole family, taking each individual's interests into consideration. This stage is called the brainstorming or option generating stage. Because we are not in court, the consequences of many different options can be considered. Creativity is valued. The combined years of experience of both attorneys are put to the test to find optimal solutions. Once an option presents itself as the likely outcome, we test it against various standards of reasonableness and make sure it is feasible. Then, the documents are written up and the Dissolution is filed. All of this is usually completed after 4 to 6 meetings.
Q: Is Collaborative Practice a faster way to get a divorce? [ top]
A: Collaborative Divorce can be quicker if the parties and the lawyers are available and diligent in their work. Your personal situation, however, determines how quickly your divorce process proceeds. Collaborative Practice can be more direct and efficient. By focusing on problem-solving instead of blame and the airing of grievances, there is an opportunity to strive for respectful results. Full disclosure and open communication assure that you cover all the issues in a timely manner. And since you settle out of court, there is no wait for the multiple court dates necessary with conventional divorce.
Q: How does Collaborative Practice focus on the future? [ top]
A: Divorce is both an ending and a beginning. Collaborative Practice helps you anticipate and include your need to move forward, and makes the future of your children a top priority. As a more respectful, dignified process, Collaborative Practice supports your family's goals for a smoother transition to the next stage of your lives.
Q: Will a Collaborative Divorce work for me? [ top]
A: Divorce is a sensitive personal matter. No single approach is right for everyone. Many couples do find Collaborative Practice (Collaborative Law/Collaborative Divorce) a welcome alternative to the often destructive, uncomfortable aspects of conventional divorce.
If these values are important to you, Collaborative Practice is likely to be a workable option for you:
- I want to maintain the tone of respect, even when we disagree.
- I want to prioritize the needs of our children.
- My needs and those of my spouse require equal consideration, and I will listen objectively.
- I believe that working creatively and cooperatively solves issues.
- It is important to reach beyond today's frustration and pain to plan for the future.
- I can behave ethically toward my spouse.
- I choose to maintain control of the divorce process with my spouse, and not relegate it to the courts.
The heart of Collaborative Practice is to offer you and your spouse or partner the support, protection, and guidance of your own lawyers without going to court. Additionally, Collaborative Practice allows you the benefit of child and financial specialists, divorce coaches and other professionals all working together on your team.
In Collaborative Practice, core elements form your contractual commitments, which are:
- Negotiating a mutually acceptable settlement without having courts decide issues.
- Maintaining open communication and information sharing.
- Creating shared solutions acknowledging the highest priorities of all .
Collaborative Practice offers guidance, information, and respectful problem solving.
Q: When I'm facing divorce, who do I need to help me? [ top]
A: Divorce is a very significant, and often, unexpected, life-cycle event. The importance of professional advice is essential. Your situation is very different from your neighbor's, your sister's, your co-worker's or your friend's No matter what they may tell you, I guarantee that there is a different fact pattern that will affect your result. Talk to a clergy person; talk to a therapist; and talk to a divorce lawyer; but don't talk to a real estate lawyer or your business lawyer. You would not go to a skin doctor for a heart condition nor to a podiatrist for a tooth ache. Talk to the ones who do the work every day. Go to the Cincinnati Academy of Collaborative Professionals for a roster of the most experienced Domestic Relations attorneys in the greater Cincinnati area.
It's OK to be ignorant about divorce. It's not OK to listen to what your spouse tells you. You need your own advice and education. Any lawyer on the Cincinnati Academy of Collaborative Professionals roster should be happy to talk to you on the phone about your options.
Your first concern should be: how do I want to go about this? What story do I want my children to tell about their parents' divorce? The facts of your case will fall into place as a matter of course. You can't control that; but you can control how you go about getting what you deserve.
Q: What qualities should I look for in an attorney? [ top]
A. The most important quality, after professional experience and training, is rapport. Is your attorney, or the person you are thinking about hiring, an individual with whom you can develop rapport? Is he or she someone you trust; someone you have complete confidence in; someone who will talk to you, when you need someone to talk to?
Ultimately, any settlement will require your consent and agreement. You will be looking to your attorney for his or her heartfelt advice on whether to accept a deal or not, and to remind you what you may, or may not, be leaving on the table. This adviser needs to be someone you can count on; someone who has listened to your needs. You want someone who will honor your interests and be truthful with you about the consequences instead of injecting his or her own ego and identity into the equation.
You can look up your Collaborative attorney's qualifications on the Cincinnati Academy of Collaborative Professionals website, and the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals website. In addition, the Ohio State Bar Association lists all of the Certified Family Law Specialists on its website.
The success rate for experienced Collaborative divorce attorneys runs in the 90 to 99% range. Less committed attorneys may have more trouble switching gears between litigation and Collaboration and may experience a different success rate.
Finally, it should be mentioned that you should be able to afford your attorney. Attorneys charge different hourly rates, based upon experience and complexity of cases. In most Collaborative cases, the attorney fees are treated as a marital expense, something that the divorcing spouses ultimately share equally. The cost is something that should be discussed openly.