Could collaboration be the answer for your New York divorce?

Consider the potentially kinder, gentler way to end a marriage of collaborative divorce.

Divorce does not always have to be a public court battle that burns through all a couple's money in legal fees and leaves everyone emotionally scorched. Sometimes the end of a marriage can be conducted in a respectful, deliberative way through a new process of negotiation called collaborative divorce.

Collaborative law was started by a divorce attorney in Minnesota who was tired of battle after battle and decided there must be a better way. His idea became collaborative divorce with these unique aspects:

  • The spouses and each of their lawyers sit down around the table to negotiate the terms of divorce in a series of collaborative meetings, deciding issues like property division, alimony, child support, custody, visitation and more.
  • Neutral professionals are brought in if necessary to gather needed information or assist with making progress through the collaborative process. These neutral team members could be financial advisors, child or parenting advisors, divorce coaches (to assist the parties through face-to-face negotiation of difficult issues), appraisers and more.
  • The parties sign an agreement to keep the negotiation confidential, act with honesty and openness, and proceed with respect. Significantly, they also promise to stay out of court and negotiate to agreement; if they fail to do so, they must each hire a new attorney to proceed through the traditional divorce process.
  • Solutions reached through collaboration may be creative and out of the norm in divorce.

The negotiated settlement agreement is then submitted to state court for incorporation into the final divorce decree.

However, collaboration is not the right answer for every couple. For example, when one spouse is controlling or has been abusive, healthy and fair negotiation may be difficult, or it may be too traumatic to sit down together. If one of the parties has a history of dishonesty, trusting that he or she will be forthright in disclosing assets and being truthful around the table may not be a good idea.

In addition, while collaboration is often cheaper than a court battle, if the couple is likely to have trouble making progress in negotiation or the issues are voluminous, collaboration may be as expensive as court since both attorneys and any neutral professionals all must be paid for their time.

The New York Association of Collaborative Professionals provides a good overview of collaborative divorce on their website. But anyone who is considering collaboration as a potential method to work through his or her own divorce should speak with a family lawyer who practices collaborative law and can advise the potential client of the pros and cons of collaborative divorce in the particular circumstances of the couple at hand.

From their offices in Garden City, East Hampton and New York City, the divorce attorneys of Librett Friedland, LLP represent clients in collaborative and traditional divorce.

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