Lorna L. Bigsby, Collaborative Divorce
Collaboration is a true alternative to litigated or “conventional” divorce because, at the outset, the couple commits in writing not to use the court system to settle their conflicts.
Instead they agree to:
- Work together with a professional “team” to identify their core common interests and goals (the “team” may consist of attorneys only, or incorporate mental health and financial specialists);
- Openly and fully disclose and share all relevant information (instead of each party independently constructing the couple’s financial picture, with duplicative expense and potential conflict, a single financial professional assembles the data for their mutual benefit);
- Meet regularly with their “team” members, individually and/or jointly, to create a settlement that builds on the core interests and goals, and respects the couple’s common history and (particularly where children are involved) need for future interaction.
Collaborative divorce shares most of the positives of mediation, in that it is:
- Private, not public’;
- Informal, and not encumbered by technical legal procedures;
- Focused on compromise, not “winning” at all costs, or at the expense of the other party;
- Participatory, with the parties controlling outcome, rather than having results imposed by an outside decision maker;
- Capable of helping preserve important personal and/or working relationships, especially the future co-parenting of a couple’s children; and
- Reduces stress and anxiety associated with formal court proceedings.
But collaboration achieves these things, unlike mediation, without being primarily adversarial. It is different in ways that surprise “conventional” expectations:
- Professionals openly discuss the case with one another, seeking to find the best means to help couples reach needed resolution;
- Information is fully shared and discussed, not assembled in private to be used against each other;
- Couples seek to improve their communication level, not only to aid the negotiation process, but also to benefit their future or co-parenting or other communication needs;
- Children witness their parents using a civil decision making process that can become the model for their future parenting interactions, rather than find themselves caught in the middle of their conflict.
Divorce is a major life transition. The collaborative process seeks to support and guide a couple through this transition with their highest values and personal integrity intact. Collaboration offers the opportunity for a couple to create their own highly personal settlement, and be ready and able to move forward with their individual lives.
Collaboration is not for everyone. But if this description of collaborative divorce resonates with you, please explore it further by contacting Lorna L. Bigsby.