Marriage, Divorce, and Collaborative Law
We enter into a marriage with enthusiasm and hopes of building a lasting relationship. Many couples materialize hopes of living a happy and fulfilling life together. For them, marriage is the most intimate community where they can always feel safe and loved. Maintaining a successful marriage requires a lot of sacrifice and work. Spouses must nurture their relationship with love, compassion, and respect.
Otherwise, everyday challenges and temptations can compromise the marriage and its integrity. Failing to put effort into strengthening relationships can often lead to crisis. The fabric of the matrimony starts to wear out. Partners become alienated and act as strangers to each other.
Consequently, divorce seems like the only way out of the relationship that does not bring happiness and fulfillment to either spouse. Looking at ways to end the marriage, litigation comes first to mind. But resolving a divorce dispute in a vindictive and adversarial court process does not bring good to anyone. It is public, expensive, and time-consuming. Most importantly, it is ineffective in bringing true reconciliation and long-term healing.
On the other hand, collaborative law helps spouses resolve divorce disputes with dignity and integrity. In an out-of-court process, each spouse has an attorney working together to resolve the conflict peacefully and respectfully.
To help you understand the collaborative law and reap its benefits, below is a step-by-step guide to this effective method:
Collaborative Divorce – A Step-by-Step Guide
1. Finding and Hiring the Right Collaborative Attorney
Selecting a collaborative attorney is the first step you need to take on the journey of out-of-court divorce. Start by searching online through databases of your local collaborative attorney’s associations. Check the members and their online presentations. Remember that websites and other forms of online presence do not always reflect the value of a collaborative attorney. After an online search, check with your friends and other professionals you trust about an attorney you want to hire. Before the final decision, interview the prospective candidates. Inquire about their record and how they handled past cases. Be curious about their approach and work philosophy. Finally, hire a collaborative attorney that suits you best.
2. Signing a Representation Agreement
The collaborative law process starts with signing a representation agreement. The parties and their attorneys sign a binding agreement preventing collaborative attorneys from representing the same clients in the future. If the collaborative divorce ends unsuccessfully, the same attorneys cannot act on behalf of the spouses in another collaborative law effort or in litigation that often ensues.
3. A Four-way Conference
The initial phase of the collaborative process is a so-called four-way conference when the parties gather with their attorneys to discuss the disputed matter and set the tone for future discussions. At this point, the spouses sign a participation agreement (sometimes a clause in a representation agreement). The agreement sets out the basic rules of the process that follows. The parties and their attorneys agree to use efforts in good faith to reach a mutually beneficial solution.
4. Exchanging Information
As part of the participation agreement, spouses and their attorneys agree to disclose all divorce-related material information. The free flow of information is key to a successful collaborative process. The procedure relies on trust and mutual respect, so the parties should reveal all information related to their dispute helping their attorneys cooperate in bringing the best possible outcome. Florida regulations guide the attorneys throughout the collaborative law process, requiring them to resign if their client intentionally misrepresents or fails to disclose material information.
5. Trusting Your Attorney
Building a relationship of trust between you and a collaborative attorney is vital to a successful process. Many people get confused after seeing their attorney communicating with the other party’s attorney, not understanding how their relationship can be so open and friendly. Unlike litigation attorneys, collaborative lawyers are encouraged to engage in a constructive working relationship. The process is about cooperation and dialogue. For that reason, when you see your attornies having a friendly talk, you can rest assured they are working with your best interest in mind.
6. Using Expert Help
Collaborative law is unimaginable without the help of experts from various fields. Child custody, alimony, marital property distribution, and other complex issues require the expertise of child specialists, financial experts, and coaches that can make the process easier and more effective.
7. Staying Open to Reconciliation
The principal difference between litigation and collaborative law is the objectives of each process. In court, the opposing parties seek to win the case and receive financial compensation, having little or no regard for the other party or their future relationship. Furthermore, judges have no knowledge, interest, or time to deal with anything beyond granting compensation and other financial benefits. Contrary to that, collaborative law is primarily about bringing peace and reconciliation between the disputed spouses. Collaborative law can even help separated couples avoid divorce and save their marriage. In any case, collaborative lawyers use their multidisciplinary knowledge to resolve the dispute at a deeper level assisting the spouses in carrying on with their lives and maintaining mutual respect. With children involved, collaborative law will help in keeping productive co-parenting relationships.
8. Negotiating and Settling
Resolving divorce disputes in litigation means a state-appointed judge issues a binding decision, with parties having no control over the process or outcome. In collaborative law, the parties are behind the steering wheel controlling the process, meaning they can always leave negotiations if any of them feels uncomfortable. Specialized in negotiation and conflict resolution, attorneys help you settle the dispute with respect and dignity, resulting in an agreement that enables building post-divorce relationships on firm grounds.
Carolann Mazza Can Help
Carolann Mazza is a Florida Supreme Court-certified mediator and a collaborative attorney with years of experience dealing with family disputes.
Her true passion is finding a solution to family conflicts in an out-of-court environment and helping clients avoid the detrimental consequences of a litigated divorce.
Focusing on cooperation, dialogue, and mutual understanding, Ms. Mazza will bring the best out of collaborative law to resolve your dispute in a non-adversarial manner.