"What is a Collaborative Divorce?"

Getting a divorce, no matter how simple or complex, puts an emotional and financial strain on everyone. There are many unsettling changes to deal with: new living arrangements, new financial responsibilities, parenting time and custody, and uncertainty about the future.

The prospect of spending any time in a courtroom can be equally intimidating. Collaborative Divorce is a relatively new way of getting a divorce that is focused on solutions, not blame, and on keeping families out of court and in control of their own future.

In a Collaborative Divorce each party has their own attorney and signs an agreement to reach a complete settlement of all issues without going to court, to voluntarily exchange full financial information, and to participate in a problem-solving approach that addresses the needs of both spouses and their children.

Collaborative divorce is a team approach, involving each party’s attorney, a neutral financial expert, and a neutral mental health professional (also known as a Divorce Coach). This team approach recognizes that divorce is a legal process, but it is a financial and emotional one as well.

The financial expert helps the parties make informed financial decisions. The divorce coach helps couples manage the emotional ups and downs of the divorce, while helping them put together a parenting plan that is in their children’s best interests. Attorneys work on the details of the divorce while making sure their client’s legal best interests are protected. This way parties are able to use their financial resources in focused ways that use the professionals best able to address their needs, rather than the ‘one size fits all’ approach of traditional litigation.

For more information of Collaborative Divorce and to see if this is an process that would work for you, please contact the Kelman Law Firm.


Will Divorce Mediation Be Right For Me?

If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, there is a strong chance that you will spend at least some time in mediation before your divorce is granted.  With mediation, you and your spouse will use a mediator as a neutral third party to help you reach an agreement.  Maybe you and your spouse each have attorneys, but you want to mediate a single issue like child custody or how you will calculate spousal support.  Or maybe you and your spouse want to save money on attorneys and have a mediator handle the whole case from start to finish.       

At Kelman Law, when we are working as a mediator we help you and your spouse identify issues that must be resolved and information that must be gathered.  We then use that information to help you and your spouse identify options for settlement and choose the option that is best for your family.  At Kelman Law we can also help you draw up the paperwork you need to formalize that agreement.

When does mediation work best? 

Although any type of divorce case can benefit from mediation, there are some cases that are particularly suited to succeed.  Mediation might be for you if: 

  • You and your spouse want to end your relationship amicably and with respect.  You entered your marriage with respect for each other;  Even if you have disagreements, mediation lets you end your marriage with respect as well.  This is especially important if you have children where you and your spouse are going to have to continue to work together even after the divorce is finalized. 
  • You and your spouse want to save costs.  Attorneys and litigation are prohibitively expensive for most people.  And even if you can afford it, who wants to spend their money that way?  Waging an expensive court battle just means you and your spouse will have less assets to divide.  Mediation is often the best way to save on those costs.
  • You and your spouse want to have control over the outcome of your divorce.  If you and your spouse can't come to an agreement, you'll be left asking a judge what should be done.  Having a judge make decisions about what should happen with your children, or how your assets and debts should be divided, is never a place anyone wants to be.  Mediation helps you keep complete control over those decisions.

When is mediation a challenge? 

The bar for when mediation can take place is pretty low;  All you need are two people who are willing to sit in a room together and have a conversation about their future.  That said, there are some circumstances where mediation can be more of a challenge: 

  • One party doesn't want to participate.   While a mediator can help overcome some resistance,  mediation is ultimately a voluntary process and can't force a reluctant party to participate.  At some point, both parties will eventually need to come to the table, produce documents, and make decisions.  If one party doesn't want the divorce, or if they handle stress by putting their head in the sand and avoiding it all together, then mediation will be difficult. 
  • One party is hiding assets or debts.  Mediation requires trust and honesty to be successful.  Sometimes you will need to produce documents for your assets and debts that will help get both parties to trust that the numbers are complete and accurate.  However, if one party is actively working to hide assets and debts, mediation will be more difficult. 
  • There is a history of emotional or physical abuse.  Mediation is not impossible in cases where there has been emotional or physical abuse, but it is more difficult.  In cases where there has been abuse, there is typically an imbalance of power between the parties - one party has historically had all of the control while the other party was relatively powerless.  While the mediator will work to minimize those power imbalances and bring both parties to an even playing field, there's a risk that the abuser will use the mediation process to continue to manipulate and intimated the abused spouse. 

Even with these challenges, there's never any harm in trying mediation.  If, despite your best efforts, you find that mediation isn't working, you can always stop at any time and move forward with a more traditional litigated divorce.  

If you're considering mediation for your divorce, contact Kelman Law to learn more.  

Is There Anything Wrong With a Kitchen Table Divorce?

A divorce does not necessarily need to be complicated.  Perhaps you and your spouse have had a short marriage, no children, and few assets and debts.  If you communicate well with each other, there's nothing to say you and your spouse can't just sit down at the kitchen table and draw up the necessary divorce documents yourselves.  Attorneys often call this a "kitchen table divorce."  It's inexpensive, can take a relatively short amount of time, and has the potential to give you the most control over your privacy and the process.  So what are some pitfalls you should watch out for? 

  • The Courts and the documentation needed can be intimidating:  Even if you do everything yourselves at home, you still will ultimately need to file your Petition for Divorce with the Courts, obtain a hearing date, prepare all of your settlement documents, and attend a final hearing where you present everything to the Court.  This process can be intimidating for some people.  Even if you and your spouse agree on everything, having an attorney or mediator review everything and help you with preparing the documents and presenting it to the Court can ease some of your anxieties. 
  • There is a risk you will miss something:  The legal and financial issues that can come up in a divorce are often more complex than people initially realize.  This can make your 'inexpensive' kitchen table divorce much more expensive in the long run in missed or mishandled assets, or increased conflict between you and your ex-spouse because you forgot to address certain issues in your parenting plan.  Even if you agree on everything, set up a consultation with an attorney or mediator to help make sure your agreement is complete and that there aren't major holes you are missing. 
  • It doesn't work if there is a power imbalance:  If you and your spouse have a relationship where historically only one party has controlled and understands the finances, or where there has been physical, emotional, or financial abuse, a kitchen table divorce is not recommended.  That relationship dynamic will continue throughout your divorce and the party with less power risks being taken advantage of.  Having an attorney represent the party who has historically had less power, or having a neutral mediator to moderate your discussions can reduce or eliminate this power imbalance. 

Avoid these pitfalls by contacting The Kelman Law Firm.  If you and your spouse agree on everything going into the divorce, we can still help make sure your paperwork is prepared and presented to the Court correctly, that you aren't leaving major assets on the table, and that you and your spouse are negotiating on equal footing.

Photo by fizkes/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by fizkes/iStock / Getty Images

There's More than One Way To Get a Divorce

No two marriages are the same and, as a result, no two divorces will be the same either.  While there are as many ways to get from "I want a divorce" to "I am divorced" as there are marriages, your options about how to proceed generally fall into four broad categories: 

  • The Kitchen Table Divorce
  • Mediation
  • Collaborative Divorce
  • Traditional Litigation

Over the next few weeks we will be looking at each of these approaches.  We'll evaluate their pros and cons so you can decide which way is the best for you and your family and what role The Kelman Law Firm can play in helping with the process.