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5 reasons to consider a collaborative divorce

If you're considering divorce, you may have come across a number of websites touting the advantages of collaborative divorce. You might think that, given your relationship, it couldn't ever work for you.

Here are five reasons why you should reconsider that initial feeling.

1. It avoids going to court.

When you commit to a collaborative divorce, you must sign an agreement that states you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are committed to staying out of court. If you can't, you will have to find new attorneys.

For some, this is the most important reason to consider collaborative divorce (or mediation, for that matter). Going to court is inherently antagonistic, since each side must come armed with evidence and arguments as to why their side deserves to "win." This also means that someone will "lose." In a relationship that has already soured, such an atmosphere only breeds more animosity.

2. It stays private.

When you go to court, the details of your marital breakdown become a matter of public record. Presumably, no one looks through divorce records for fun, but it happens in cases involving celebrities and other prominent figures (how else do you think those tabloids always seem to be in the know?).

In a collaborative divorce, the details of your split remain private. The only thing that goes into the public record is the fact that you got divorced. That's it.

3. It can save time.

There is no way around it: going to court takes time. Depending on the complexities of your case, it can take several months or even years (yes, plural) to finalize everything. Why? Because the court runs on its own schedule and it's often overbooked. This means you could wait weeks or even a few months for a court date. Heaven help you if you need more than one hearing.

Collaborative divorce runs on your timetable. In consultation with your lawyer and the other side, you set the dates, times and number of meetings you think you'll need to sort everything out. A lot of work can be done outside your formal negotiation sessions too, so you can keep things moving along. Delays only happen if someone doesn't pull their own weight or comes to a session unprepared.

4. It can save money.

Now, the total costs of any divorce vary depending on the complexity of the case and how well couples can work together. However, when you factor in all the costs of filing motions, conducting discovery sessions, preparing for trial, hiring expert witnesses (if necessary) and of course, appearing in court (maybe multiple times), it's easy to see why divorce litigation gets expensive.

In a collaborative process, you can often control costs by setting your own schedule. You won't have to go through a formal discovery process either, though of course both sides must share information equally. Even when you include professionals like tax specialists, business valuation experts or family therapists on your collaborative team, those costs can be accounted for upfront, so there are no surprises.

5. It gives you more control.

Finally, in a traditional divorce, the judge ultimately must rely on the evidence presented and the confines of the law to make his or her decision about your divorce. As a result, the divorce settlement rarely satisfies both parties.

Not true in a collaborative divorce. With a collaborative divorce, you have more flexibility to create solutions that fit both the parameters of the law and your family's unique needs. Add in the fact that you will have a whole team of professional experts working with you, and you have the ingredients for obtaining the best possible settlement you could hope for.

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