Most people are familiar with the process of dissolving a marriage through mediation. Considered more cost effective and less stressful than traditional divorce proceedings, mediation gives couples a chance to make all of the major decisions about their divorce instead of leaving it up to a judge, who may be a complete stranger to both spouses.
Though many people are drawn to mediation because it promotes amicable negotiations, couples must keep in mind that this process is guided by a mediator, not a lawyer. Spouses must look out for their own best interests. But without an extensive understanding of the law, this can be difficult to do in some situations.
Collaborative divorce: An alternative to mediation
Just as mediation is an alternative to traditional divorce, collaborative divorce is an alternative to mediation. This process provides the benefit of mediation by promoting collaborative problem solving with the benefit of having legal guidance throughout the process. If negotiations break down, collaborative divorce allows spouses to fairly easily transition into traditional divorce proceedings.
- Obtain the services of a lawyer. A family law attorney with a background in mediation proceedings is best suited to represent you in a collaborative divorce.
- Discuss the circumstances of your case with your lawyer. Let your attorney know what you want and determine together how possible this is in your situation. Remember that compromise may be necessary. Your attorney will point out when this will be in your best interest and when it is not.
- Start negotiations. Once you and your spouse have obtained legal counsel, and have discussed the specifics of your case privately with your respective lawyer, you are ready to meet and begin negotiations. Keep in mind: you may not be able to get through everything in one day – multiple meetings may need to take place before you come to an agreement on everything.
- File your petition for divorce. Once you and your spouse are in agreement about all aspects of the divorce, from property division to child custody, then you are ready to file a petition with the court. Your lawyer can help you do this as well as help you take any additional legal steps if negotiations do not work out.