When you think of divorce, what comes to mind? If your first thought was of bickering, stress, and long hours spent in courtrooms you are not alone. Those things are, indeed, a part of many divorces—but they don’t have to be. There are forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) which can keep you out of court and actually promote a dignified, respectful process, even in a divorce in which you and your spouse have disagreements. One form of ADR that is growing in popularity is Collaborative Divorce, which can offer you greater control over the outcome of your divorce, a lower stress level during and after the process, and may even cost less than a “traditional” litigated divorce.
WHAT IS A COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE?
Collaborative divorce is a specific process in which you negotiate the terms of your divorce with your spouse, your attorneys, and other trained professionals as needed. While all Collaborative divorces are negotiated, not all negotiated divorce settlements are Collaborative. Collaborative divorces involve a specific protocol, in which professionals must be trained, but within that protocol, there is great flexibility.
Collaborative divorces take place through a series of four-way meetings between the spouses, their attorneys, and any other needed professionals, such as a neutral financial professional. During these meetings, parties identify their needs and interests, issues they need to resolve, and solutions that serve the interests of both spouses, if at all possible. When all issues are resolved, the attorneys prepare a settlement agreement based on the spouses’ decisions, and the divorce can be finalized in a brief court hearing.
What makes Collaborative divorce unique is that the parties and their attorneys sign agreements committing to be honest and respectful, to disclose all needed information (including finances) and not to threaten litigation. This enables spouses to communicate openly without fear that their words will be used against them later in court.
If a successful settlement cannot be negotiated through Collaborative process, and the spouses do end up needing to litigate, they must start over with new attorneys who have not been through the Collaborative process with them. This is a powerful incentive to negotiate fairly, and in fact, it is rarely necessary for parties who commit to Collaborative to have to litigate. An impressive 92% of Collaborative Divorces in Florida ended in a settlement—a settlement crafted by the parties specifically for their family’s needs.
ADVANTAGES OF COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE
That ability to custom-design your divorce is one of the advantages of Collaborative Divorce. No one knows the needs of your family like you and your spouse. Placing the important decisions about your future in the hands of a judge may not yield the result you hope for. It is usually better to make your own decisions with your attorneys’ help. Collaborative divorce also lets you proceed on your timetable—not a court’s. You can take as much or as little time as you need to reach a settlement.
Because Collaborative divorce fosters an atmosphere of respect and open communication, there is typically much less fighting involved; this translates to less stress for you and your spouse. If you have to deal with each other as co-parents post-divorce, having a respectful, dignified divorce process means you will probably be able to work together better for your kids’ sake afterward.
Then there are the financial advantages of Collaborative Divorce. Less fighting in divorce usually means lower attorney bills and more money in your pocket when the divorce is over. While there is no guarantee that a Collaborative divorce will cost less than a litigated divorce, many people find that their expenses are lower with Collaborative.
SKILLED REPRESENTATION FOR SOUTH FLORIDA COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE
Collaborative divorce is not the right choice for everyone, but it is a great choice for many people. Before committing to another path, you should explore whether Collaborative is the best choice for you.
Attorney Antonio Jimenez is trained in Collaborative divorce and takes pride in offering clients a choice of divorce options to best suit their particular needs. Antonio concentrates his entire practice in family law, including Collaborative Divorce.
Antonio represents divorce clients in Miami, Miami-Dade County, Broward County, Palm Beach County, and the surrounding areas of South Florida. Contact Antonio toschedule an in-depth one-hour consultation to explore your Florida divorce options.