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An Alternative to Traditional Divorce

Sometimes in Sun Country, people get divorced. While some couples can reach a friendly settlement, many find themselves in long, expensive, ugly battles over money, alimony, property, and child custody. When the couple can't reach an agreement on these issues, they could end up in a trial or hearings before a judge or divorce master. Unfortunately, the parties spend huge amounts of money on attorney's fees and various kinds of experts who are needed to testify about the value of assets or child custody issues. Even after spending thousands of dollars, the parties may get a result they find unacceptable.

To try to avoid the nastier elements of a split, the collaborative divorce process was born. Collaborative divorce is a relatively new process created to reduce the emotional and financial impact of a divorce. In Sun Country, collaborative divorce is handled by the Collaborative Professionals of Central Pennsylvania. These are attorneys who also practice traditional divorce, but who have been specially trained to handle collaborative divorce.

In collaborative divorce, each party hires a collaborative lawyer to help negotiate a resolution of all issues. The negotiations take place in settlement meetings that are attended by both the collaborative lawyers and the clients. To encourage settlement, all parties agree that if they cannot resolve all their issues, both parties will be required to hire new lawyers to go to court. If either party chooses to leave the collaborative process and go to court, the collaborative lawyers involved are disqualified from further participation. This motivates the parties to save money, be reasonable, and find common ground for settlement.

During the collaborative sessions, each party gets legal advice, but the intent of the process is that the decisions are made by the parties themselves. The parties agree to work together respectfully, honestly, and in good faith to try and reach solutions to the difficult issues at hand. Full disclosure of all matters, financial and otherwise, is required and spelled out in a binding agreement signed by the parties. Creativity, perseverance, and sincerity are essential to a successful result. Where necessary, experts in property and business valuation and other relevant fields may be brought into the process. Financial experts may resolve valuation issues, and where custody and visitation issues are in dispute, the needs and concerns of the parties and the children are evaluated and considered. Psychologists or other trained professionals may be utilized if needed. Rather than trying to tear each other down, the parties collectively work to a result that recognizes the long term benefits of a carefully thought out solution. The final decision remains in the hands of the parties - not a Judge.

Although there are exceptions, generally speaking your legal fees will be less in a collaborative divorce than a traditional divorce. This is because the parties' focus from the onset is on full disclosure, cooperation, and resolution of issues. This doesn't mean that the process is always easy, because emotional and financial issues arising from a broken relationship and ongoing contacts due to custody and visitation can be difficult to deal with. However, the process is designed to consider the best ways to reach a mutually agreeable resolution. An in depth consultation with an experienced domestic law attorney who practices traditional and collaborative divorce will enable you to determine if collaborative law is right for you.


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