It’s not uncommon for people trapped in broken marriages to fear the idea of divorce. Especially if your marriage is broken but not abusive, you may hesitate to walk away. After all, there’s no shortage of horror stories about awful divorces.
Still, for every horror story, there are other divorces that allow people to part ways and find better futures. The truth is that divorce doesn’t have to lead to bitter courtroom battles. It can focus on more positive outcomes. And collaborative divorce allows many couples to conduct the business of divorce with minimal conflict.
The basics of collaborative divorce
In a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse each recruit your own attorney. You sign an agreement that says you intend to settle your divorce outside of court. Then you work with your attorneys and each other to resolve each of the concerns your divorce must address. Frequently, couples will also bring in a Mental Health Neutral and Financial Neutral to help with the process.
As the Florida Bar notes, the key to collaborative divorce is your attorney’s role. If you agree to a collaborative divorce, your attorney cannot argue your case in court. In other words, state rules push your attorney to help you find the collaborative settlements you said you wanted. Your attorney may advise you to take certain issues to court if you can’t otherwise get a reasonable settlement. But your attorney won’t be the one arguing those issues.
This rule ensures your attorney won’t have financial incentives to push you to court. Even if there are certain issues you and your soon-to-be ex cannot resolve collaboratively, you can reach a settlement on the rest.
According to Florida law, your collaborative divorce ends when you bring your agreement to the court. It may also end when you take any of the following actions:
- Inform the other party you’re done trying to use the collaborative process
- Take your disputes to the court
- Dismiss your attorney
Importantly, the law allows you to resume some matters collaboratively even if you don’t resolve them all. It also allows you to pursue a collaborative divorce even if you initially filed with the court. And it allows you to go to court if you decide the collaborative process isn’t working for you. It just doesn’t allow your collaborative attorney to continue working with you.
The benefits of collaborative divorce
Ultimately, the real question is whether collaborative divorce is your best option. The answer varies with the circumstances, but there are several key benefits to collaborative divorce. It tends to be cheaper and less confrontational than courtroom hearings. Also, it affords you more control, privacy and creativity. You don’t leave matters in a judge’s hands. You and your ex resolve them on your own.
There are potential downsides, of course. If you cannot settle certain issues collaboratively, you have to find a new attorney for litigation. But when couples can work through their issues together, collaborative divorce often provides the simplest path toward a new future.