Collaborative Divorce: An Innovative Solution to the Messy Divorce Problem

Asa LaMusga, Principal and Chief Performance Office at Gravis Law

The adversarial process of law only helps exasperate the fighting. But what if there was a different way? A way that doesn’t air out your divorce in public and focuses on building a path forward instead of tearing things down. A method that focuses on stopping the fighting and ending the marriage on agreeable terms.

Luckily, a solution exists and is rapidly gaining attention in the family law community.

Collaborative Divorce Often Makes Divorce Less Messy

In the 1990s, Minneapolis attorney Stuart Webb created collaborative divorce in response to his frustration that couples typically ended their marriage with more fighting. Webb decided that if he could not work with his clients to collaborate on their divorce, he would rather not represent them than take their case to court. In his philosophy, a divorce, and all the pieces that make it up, could and should be taken care of without ever stepping foot in a courtroom.

Collaborative Divorce Means Both Sides Work Together Instead of Fighting

For the collaborative process to begin, both sides must agree to be cooperative and open to compromise. If either party is unwilling to participate, the collaborative divorce will fail.

At the start of a collaborative divorce agreement, both parties and their respective attorneys will sign a “participation agreement.” This agreement requires each party to cordially work through the divorce process with their spouse.  Additionally, the agreement disqualifies the attorneys from representing either party if they decide to bring the divorce to court.  If the parties cannot reach an agreement, they both will need to find a new representation before litigation begins.

The Collaborative Divorce Process, Simplified

After the participation agreement is signed, both parties work with their attorney to determine what they hope to achieve with the divorce. Though their attorney is committed to de-escalation of conflict, they are also still there to represent their client’s interests.  Collaborative law does not diminish the need for a committed divorce attorney.

In building a client’s collaborative divorce strategy, an attorney may suggest additional members to add to their client’s team, such as child custody experts, financial experts, and mental health experts.

Once both parties have their teams of subject matter experts assembled, the first mediated meeting occurs between the divorcing spouses.

Collaborative Divorce Uses a Mediated Process

The parties use a trained neutral mediator whose goal is to help the parties reach an agreement. Sometimes, parties will utilize coaches to assist them in working through challenging issues. For complex issues, therapists may be involved for assisting with making decisions relating to children or the separation. Similarly, financial neutrals may be leveraged to help make decisions that are in the best financial decisions of both parties to maximize the outcome for both spouses.

Imagine A Divorce Where Both Parties Split Amicably

Most clients that choose collaborative divorce find that they would recommend it over the traditional adversarial approach.

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