Collaborative Divorce

Jessica explains the Collaborative Divorce Process on Law Power Hour.

Listen to Jessica's guest appearance on Dr. Kyle Wallner's podcast explaining the Collaborative Divorce Practice in more detail and Dr. Kyle Wallner explains the health benefits associated with the process.

Divorce is a challenging transition layered with feelings of anger, hurt, loss, sadness, guilt, fear and other emotional variables.  The Collaborative Process is a more humane and respectful way to help families through this transition. It is a client-centered process that focuses on healing and forward-thinking. At the outset, the Process is intentionally geared toward settlement.  The traditional, adversarial nature of divorce proceedings through the court system often exacerbate conflict and directs focus toward positions/outcome. This often leads to litigated disputes even after the divorce is finalized.  During the Collaborative Process, however, the focus is on the whole family and their interests and concerns, not positions. With Collaborative problem solving, uncoupling spouses are more likely to create and maintain a healthy relationship post-divorce, co-parent more effectively, and avoid continued disputes at the courthouse.  This process can really help families find quality resolutions and move forward in peace.

The Collaborative Divorce Practice is an innovative approach to divorce and domestic relations matters.  It involves an interdisciplinary team of trained professionals who commit to crafting a settlement tailored specifically to the family’s needs, without going to court.  The team will always include the clients and two collaboratively trained attorneys, but may also include a mental health professional, financial advisor, and/or a child specialist, who are each neutral participants.  The mental health professional handles the emotional landscape of the process.  Some teams will have a single mental health professional; other teams will have a divorce coach for each client.   A child specialist can be retained to include the children’s voices in the process if appropriate and a financial advisor can help with cash flow discussions, budgets, child and spousal support questions, valuation of businesses, etc.

The team holds as many settlement meetings as necessary until all issues related to the divorce or child custody are resolved.  The meetings move at a pace agreeable to the parties, without the pressure of rushing through settlement to comply with court deadlines. With about 1-2% of cases actually proceeding to trial, it makes sense to invest time and money on a process that focuses on settlement from day one and considers the family’s unique circumstances and goals.

The Collaborative Process creates an environment where parties can be open and honest, and still have a confidential exchange of information.  All discussions and negotiations are conducted with the clients intimately involved.  The Collaborative atmosphere also protects the children; divorce does not destroy children, it is how a couple goes through divorce that can cause the most damage.

The glue that holds the Collaborative Practice together is the participation agreement that all members of the team must sign.  This agreement makes it clear that if at any point either party wants to litigate and proceed with an adversarial approach, the collaborative lawyers must withdraw and the clients must seek new attorneys.  While some see this as a negative part of the process, it truly commits everyone to the settlement meetings and focuses on long-term goals and quality resolutions.

While there are many benefits to this Process, it is not necessarily the best option for every family.  It is important to assess your divorce options based on your own circumstances.  Some families proceed with the traditional approach and/or mediation because there are less issues and emotions involved, or children may not be involved in the divorce.  In addition, the Collaborative Process may not be appropriate where domestic violence is of concern.  Find out the best option for you and your family.  Contact Attorney Jessica P. Heltsley today to learn more.