What is collaborative divorce?

In a traditional divorce, each party retains a lawyer, who takes control of the legal process on behalf of his or her client. This usually results in repeated trips to court, claims and counter-claims, and a conveyer belt of litigation that ends only when the two sides are emotionally exhausted and out of money.

There is an alternative. Collaborative law is a process in which the two parties and their lawyers agree to focus on problem-solving, not fighting.

An alternative to a litigated divorce

In a collaborative divorce, each side hires an attorney who is trained in the collaborative law process. The attorneys are there to help you reach a settlement – not to foster litigation. If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement, the two attorneys are disqualified from the case and cannot represent you in litigation.

The collaborative law process allows you to resolve your case out of court. You and your spouse are in control of the process. Your attorney advises you about the law and helps you reach an agreement.

The collaborative process allows for engagement of experts such as mental health professionals, child specialists and financial professionals. The professionals are there to give you the information you need to make good decisions.

Ultimately, it is up to the two sides to reach an agreement. However, both have an incentive to do so. There is a huge risk in allowing a judge, who is a stranger to your family, to have absolute control over how your divorce will be resolved.

Sheldon E. Finman, P.A., is a family law attorney in Fort Myers who helps his clients seek less adversarial ways to dissolve a marriage.