Collaborative Divorce and Divorce Mediation
If you’ve made the decision to divorce your spouse, the next step in the process is determining what you want the divorce to look like. Depending on your goals for divorce and the relationship you currently maintain with your spouse, there are multiple options, including a traditional divorce that is settled through mediation, a traditional divorce that is settled through litigation, and collaborative divorce.
At The Christie Law Firm, LLC, our experienced Hartford divorce attorney had represented clients seeking dissolution of marriage using various methods. For the legal guidance that you can trust during this trying time, call The Christie Law Firm, LLC today.
Issues that Must Be Resolved in a Divorce
Before a divorce can be finalized and parties to a divorce can legally go their separate ways, certain issues must be resolved. Parties can either reach a settlement on their own, or the court can issue a divorce judgment following a divorce trial. Issues that must be resolved in a divorce include:
- Division of property. All property must be divided in a way that is fair and equitable in Connecticut. Again, parties can work to reach an agreement on their own, or the court will consider various factors in making an equitable distribution.
- Spousal support. In addition to dividing property in a manner that’s equitable and fair, parties to a divorce must also decide whether spousal support—sometimes called alimony—will be part of the divorce settlement. Alimony is typically only awarded in the event that one party to the marriage is financially dependent on the other and cannot support themselves without the spousal support award.
- Child custody. If parties to the divorce have minor children, then making a determination about parenting time/child custody is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, child custody can be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce, especially in the event that parents decide not to live near each other post-divorce.
- Child support. Like child custody, an order for child support will also be issued in the event that parents have minor children and custody is not being equally shared.
How to Resolve Issues in a Divorce: Understanding Divorce Mediation
The above issues can be very trying for couples to resolve, especially if parties to the marriage maintain bad feelings about one another and the ending of the union.
For some couples, working together to reach an agreement may feel impossible. However, before heading to court, couples are encouraged to engage in divorce mediation; the court may even require mediation before litigation.
Divorce mediation is a process in which parties work with a neutral, third-party mediator who facilitates the conversation and helps parties reach an agreement. The mediator has no power to decide the case and is there just to help parties stay on track and facilitate the negotiations.
For mediation, the use of lawyers by either party is not required. Mediation is usually considered relatively informal and offers more flexibility than other divorce resolution methods; it is also considered to be one of the least expensive methods of reaching an agreement in a divorce.
What Is a Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative divorce is not to be confused with mediation, nor is it to be confused with a divorce process in which parties merely collaborate or work together to reach a settlement. While these are facets of a collaborative divorce, the term refers to a formal process in which both parties to the divorce agree from the beginning to forgo litigation and enter into a collaboration agreement. Additionally, both parties will hire their own lawyers, both of whom will be involved in negotiations.
In the event that the divorce does go to litigation, these attorneys will withdraw themselves from the case. In a collaborative divorce, it’s also standard practice for each party to assemble a divorce team that includes various experts, including a divorce coach, financial expert, and child specialist.
What Are the Advantages of a Collaborative Divorce?
There are many advantages to choosing collaborative divorce vs. traditional divorce. Some of the top reasons that people choose collaborative divorce include:
- Controlled pace of divorce cases. During a collaborative divorce, the pace at which the divorce proceeds will be in the hands of you and your spouse—no one else. This allows you the time you need to fully understand each issue that needs to be resolved in the divorce and do the research and investigation necessary to build your case.
- Support from experts. One of the hallmark features of collaborative divorce is that each party to a divorce will assemble a group of experts and specialists to help inform their position. For example, your divorce team may include a financial specialist, a child specialist if you have any children, and perhaps a divorce coach. These professionals provide insight and guidance that you otherwise wouldn’t have access to.
- Prioritizes communication and good-faith negotiations. Rather than creating a scenario where there is one winner and one loser, collaborative divorce fosters an environment where both parties are working to achieve a win-win solution that works for everyone. Through this model, negotiations are done in good faith; not simply to win or take something from the other party. Healthy communication is at the foundation of collaborative divorce.
- Allows for retained decision-making power. While going to court and litigating a divorce may yield an outcome that works for you, this isn’t always the case. Indeed, heading to court is always a gamble. On the other hand, with a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse are in charge of the outcome.
- Alleviates stress and conflict. Litigating a divorce is very stressful, not to mention expensive and time-consuming. A collaborative divorce is often considered a more peaceful and less stressful way to terminate a marriage.
- Protects privacy. Collaborative divorces, and the documents and outcome of a collaborative divorce, are not public; they are completely private. If protecting your privacy is important to you, then avoiding the court system is essential.
- Protects children and prioritizes co-parenting. For parents who are divorcing, the collaborative divorce process can protect young children from unnecessary conflict and help to prioritize a co-parenting arrangement that focuses on the child having parenting time with both parents. The stress of a traditional, contentious divorce can be damaging to a child psychologically.
- Leads to healthier relationships post-divorce. There are many reasons why you and your spouse may need to continue a relationship post-divorce, including shared interests in children, property, or other friends or family. A collaborative divorce can lead to a healthier relationship after the divorce is complete.
Understanding Divorce Litigation
Divorce litigation is something that follows when divorce mediation or collaborative divorce fails. Divorce litigation involves both parties to the divorce presenting their case to the court during a divorce trial. Then, a family law judge will make the ultimate determination about how the divorce should be resolved.
Divorce litigation is usually the last-resort option, as it is expensive, time-consuming, and can be highly contentious. For parents with children, divorce litigation can be especially worrisome, as litigation could be damaging to a child’s psychological wellbeing. What’s more, no matter how great of a case you present, you do not have full control over the outcome.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Collaborative Divorce and Mediation
Because litigation is usually the worst-case scenario outcome, most couples opt for either mediation or collaborative divorce. However, before choosing either, it’s important to know that these methods have both advantages and a few drawbacks. Here are some things to consider:
Advantages and drawbacks of collaborative divorce
As explained above, during a collaborative divorce, both parties agree to resolve the divorce in as amicable and collaborative a way as possible. Some of the advantages of a collaborative divorce include:
- It is less expensive than litigation
- Both parties share the same goal—to resolve the divorce amicably
- Both parties aim to find a win-win solution
- This type of divorce is typically less stressful
- Privacy is protected during a collaborative divorce
- For parents with children, collaborative divorce can reduce conflict and protect the children
- Can facilitate a more peaceful transition to having a relationship with your ex-spouse after the divorce is complete
Some of the drawbacks of collaborative divorce include:
- It is typically more expensive than mediation, as parties not only hire their own lawyers but also their own set of experts to comprise their divorce team
- It requires a lot of trust—for couples who have a lot of animosity in their relationship, collaborative divorce may not work
- It requires true compromise—the purpose of collaborative divorce is not just to get everything you want from a divorce settlement
Advantages and drawbacks of mediation
For some couples, mediation is a better option than collaborative divorce. Some of the advantages of divorce mediation include:
- The outcome is in your control, not the hands of a judge
- Mediation is the least expensive way of reaching a settlement in a divorce
- Mediation is generally less contentious than litigation
- Mediation does not require representation from a lawyer, which makes it less expensive
Some of the downsides of mediation include:
- Parties do not agree to work together to find a solution as is the case in a collaborative divorce
- Mediation requires compromise and being willing to hear the other party, which can be difficult in highly contentious marriages
- If mediation is unsuccessful, it could lay the groundwork for an even more explosive divorce trial
Work with an Experienced Connecticut Divorce Attorney
If you’re unsure what type of divorce is right for you, it’s important to consult with an attorney and your spouse. If you and your spouse have a good relationship and are able and willing to work together, collaborative divorce is a great option. If communication and trust are large problems in the relationship, starting with mediation may be the better choice.
At The Christie Law Firm, LLC, our experienced divorce attorney can answer your questions about divorce mediation, collaborative divorce, and everything else. Reach out today by phone at (860) 461-7494, online, or in-person to get started.