Have you and your spouse decided to end your marriage but are uncertain about what to do next? Are you worried about the cost in money, time and emotional turmoil of a trial or other lengthy legal process? You do have options, which you should discuss with a knowledgeable Washington family law attorney.
One such option — collaborative divorce — is increasingly popular. This forum for dispute resolution allows splitting couples to mutually agree on terms of property disposition and parenting arrangements with the aid of professional advisers and expert consultants. Like mediation, it offers privacy, informality of proceedings, lower levels of tension and faster resolution of issues. Unlike mediation, collaborative divorce is not supervised by a neutral third party.
As its name suggests, collaborative divorce differs from the “fight and win” strategy that drives litigation. Each spouse is represented by counsel for the limited purpose of advice and assistance in negotiating a settlement agreement. The parties and their lawyers sign an agreement that they will use their best efforts to resolve the case without litigation and, importantly, that the lawyers are barred from representing the parties should the case end up in court. The parties and attorneys engage in a problem-solving approach with attention to transparency and mutual respect. It often involves hiring experts and specialists who help resolve the financial and other issues that often arise during divorce.
Ideally, the process results in a comprehensive agreement that can be incorporated into the divorce decree. However, this approach does not work for all couples. It can still be adversarial. The parties have individual lawyers whose job is to get the best result possible for the client, which sometimes results in stalemates. Other important downsides of the process are these:
- Although it is usually less costly than a court battle, collaborative divorce is not cheap. In addition to paying your attorney, you will need to pay the cost of the experts who assist with issues related to child custody, finances, real estate, and other matters.
- If either spouse or both refuse to provide full financial information, the resulting settlement will not be complete and may result in subsequent litigation.
- If the process fails, you will need to start over in court with new lawyers and consequent legal and litigation expenses.
Despite these caveats, collaborative divorce can be a good option for couples seeking to avoid the publicity, expense and emotional upset that often accompany litigation. In addition, it may satisfy the requirements of many states and counties in the U.S. that divorcing couples go through some form of alternative dispute resolution as a first step in the divorce process.
If you are interested in learning more about collaborative divorce in Washington and whether it is right for you, Bottimore & Associates, P.L.L.C. can help. Call us at 253-272-5653 or contact us online to schedule a consultation at our Tacoma office.