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Collaborative Divorce

Peaceful Restructuring of a Family is Possible

Our Court system is adversarial—one side against the other, each seeking its own success. Cases are won—so someone else loses. More often, everybody loses. They lose money, time, stress, and respect.

Is that really how you want your marriage or relationship to end with the person you once loved? If you have children, do you want them to endure the battle scars of divorce conflict?

The collaborative divorce process provides a better way.  As a founding member of the Nevada County Collaborative Divorce Practice Group, Maralee is the ideal choice to be involved in your collaborative divorce. Call (530) 272-5672 or visit our contact page for other ways to reach us.

What is collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce is an alternate form of family law dispute resolution, which started to be developed in about 1990. It recognizes that marriage and divorce are not only legal issues—they are relationship issues that have legal aspects and implications.

In collaborative divorce, the lawyers for both side, plus other team members, commit to helping the parties resolve their conflicts through cooperative techniques instead of adversarial approaches and litigation. Everyone involved agrees to achieve a fair outcome through negotiation and conflict resolution. The conflict, emotional issues, and relationship concerns are addressed creatively in ways designed to minimize the pain and turmoil that divorce can cause.

How does collaborative divorce differ from mediated divorce?

Both are alternates to the traditional adversarial process, and are designed to bring out a mutual agreement, but they each have their unique aspects.  We answer this in detail on our mediated divorce page.

Who is a good candidate for collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce requires that both parties be committed to working with, rather than against, each other to resolve their issues.  Generally, the parties must be emotionally mature, able to handle the end of the marriage, keep emotions under control, and be genuinely interested in the well-being of the other person. If children are involved, they will be committed to keeping the children’s best interests as the highest priority. They’ll want to promote a close relationship between the children and both parents, and to minimize any emotional damage to the children as a result of the separation.

The Nevada County Collaborative Divorce Practice Group says collaborative divorce may be a valid option for you if you agree with these statements:

  • I want to maintain a tone of respect, even when we disagree.
  • I want to prioritize the needs of our children.
  • My needs and those of my spouse require equal consideration, and I will listen objectively.
  • I believe that working creatively and cooperatively solves issues.
  • It is important to reach beyond today’s frustration and pain to plan for the future.
  • I can behave ethically toward my spouse.
  • I choose to maintain control of the divorce process with my spouse.

How does the cost of collaborative divorce compare with traditional divorce?

Collaborative divorce is not inexpensive, but it generally costs less than traditional divorce. There are fewer court costs and fees. Committed parties working together can be much more effective than an adversarial process. Each team member works only in his or her area of expertise, maximizing efficiency. Cooperative scheduling arrangements reduce the costs of missed work and postponements.  The emotional costs of stress, delay, and conflict are greatly reduced.

What is the role of the attorneys in collaborative divorce?

In collaborative divorce, the attorneys are not neutral parties—they are resources, educators, and advocates for their clients. They give information and help with legal terms and issues.  They provide an outside, educated perspective, and make suggestions that the parties may not have thought of.  They ensure their clients understand the implications of their decisions.  They promote communication, reason, and reality.

The attorneys need to do the usual determination and investigation of the issues, and make sure their clients understand the rights and obligations they have.  They also need to protect the collaborative process by anticipating areas of conflict, encouraging honesty and respect, and working toward resolution.  Though they do represent their individual clients and want to get the client a good settlement, they are also committed to the common goal of reaching agreement with minimal pain.

Who are the other participants in a collaborative divorce?

The team will also include mental health professionals serving as divorce coaches, and a neutral financial advisor. Where appropriate, a child specialist meets with the parents and (if age appropriate) children, to work out a schedule and other agreements which best serve the children’s needs. Each team member is committed to the resolution of all the issues facing the parties.

Is this still a legal process? Do I still have rights?

Yes. California law governs the process, and all the legal rights and obligations still exist.  There are mandatory information exchanges, and a final judgment of divorce. The collaborative process does offers more flexibility for the people involved to make the decisions which are best for their specific family and situation. It also offers more privacy for parties. The dissolution process can require mandatory information which is in the public record. In collaborative or mediated process, some of this can be kept private. Discuss this with Maralee if this is your concern.

What happens if we just can’t reach a settlement?

At the beginning of a collaborative dissolution, all the team members, including the attorneys, agree not to be involved in any litigation.  If you cannot reach an agreement, you will have the added time and expense of hiring a new attorney and any other experts you need and taking the matter to Court. This is generally at increased fees and costs. Collaborative divorce works best when both parties are fully committed to working things out, but it can’t work for everyone. If the parties get “stuck,” there is always the option of letting a Judge decide your matters.

Learn More

Should you use the collaborative divorce process? Begin by contacting Nelder Family Law for a consultation to explore your situation and decide what approach will work best for you.  Call (530) 272-5672 or see our contact information for other options.