In the Collaborative Process, spouses work to negotiate a settlement agreement that addresses the goals, interests, and needs of both spouses and the best interests of their children and to maintain an atmosphere of respectfulness and cooperation. Each spouse enjoys the support and guidance of their own Fairfax, VA divorce lawyers, but without the threat of court, as both lawyers formally agree to stay out of the court system and help you reach a settlement.
Jonathan Kales named as one of Ten Leaders in Collaborative Divorce Law in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.
HOW DOES COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE WORK?
Decide Upon the Collaborative Team. The spouses and their collaborative attorneys discuss which, if any, other collaborative professionals may be helpful with their case. Besides attorneys, other possible collaborative team members include: (1) a neutral mental health professional, who serves as a divorce coach for both spouses, or an individual coach for each spouse, (2) an impartial financial specialist, and/or (3) a child specialist.
Goals and Interests. We discuss and assist the spouses with identifying their goals and interests. This helps the spouses to be creative and think broadly while working towards a mutually agreeable settlement.
Collect Data and Spot Issues. We collect relevant data regarding your case, note agreements you have already reached, and identify remaining “questions to be answered” for you to achieve a settlement (e.g., What will the custody and parenting plan be? Will the spouses’ property and debts be equalized? Will there be spousal support/alimony? If yes, the amount and duration?
Brainstorm and Assess Options. We come up with options to address your “questions to your answered”/unsettled issues and assess and decide which of those options work best for you and your spouse.
Draft Written Agreement. The collaborative attorneys draft a divorce settlement agreement, which memorializes your settlement in principal. This agreement is often referred to as a Marital Settlement Agreement, a Property Settlement Agreement, or a Separation Agreement.
Get Divorced. Provided you and your spouse have been separated for the required period of time in Virginia (6 months if you and your spouse have no minor children together and 1 year if you do have minor children together), the collaborative attorneys usher the Marital Settlement Agreement through the court system. At the end of this process, the judge signs your Final Order of Divorce, and you are divorced.
BENEFITS OF COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE FOR NORTHERN VIRGINIA COUPLES
Reduced Hostility. The guiding principle of a Collaborative Divorce is respect. This respectful tone encourages you and your spouse to show compassion, understanding, and cooperation and to negotiate an enduring mutually beneficial settlement agreement.
Better for children. Divorce impacts children. It changes who they are. The Collaborative Process recognizes this and seeks to minimize divorce’s negative effects. Parenting plans seek to preserve healthy attachments and the emotional well-being of the family and are customized to suit the particular makeup of each unique family, such as a family with a special needs child.
Lower Costs. A Collaborative Divorce generally costs less, financially and emotionally, than traditional litigation with a Fairfax, VA divorce attorney. It is rare for a person that divorces collaboratively to experience the level of fees, turmoil, and conflict incurred by couples who take their cases to court.
Safety. Your case is resolved in meetings, where the attorneys only focus on helping you and your spouse reach settlement terms which are both agreeable to you and your spouse and are in the best interests of your family. You never have to worry that what you say might later be used against you by your spouse’s attorney in a courtroom.
Enduring. Couples tend to be much more satisfied and content with settlement agreements reached in the Collaborative Process, as opposed to rulings handed down by a judge in a courtroom. Couples have great input in settlement agreements reached in the Collaborative Process, which results in those agreements enduring over time, an environment of stability for the couple and their children, and less post-divorce litigation.
Control of Timing. Parties to a Collaborative Divorce participate in a number of well structured meetings where they determine the terms of their divorce settlement agreement. The parties can set the pace of these meetings—taking more time if they so desire or speeding things up as appropriate.
Control of Outcome. Spouses control their own outcome instead of a judge determining their fate.
Transparency. In a Collaborative Divorce, there is no “hiding of the ball.” Information, financial and otherwise, is shared openly. This allows attorneys to think creatively and to worry less about strategic one-upsmanship.
Confidentiality. Proceedings are confidential to ensure that all options can be safely considered and discussed.
Informed Decision Making. Spouses, with the assistance of their attorneys and sometimes other professionals, brainstorm and analyze possible settlement options. Parties are advised on the law as their attorneys view it and the potential financial impact and/or emotional consequences of their decisions.
WHY THE COLLABORATIVE PROCESS INSTEAD OF MEDIATION?
The goal of both the Collaborative Process and mediation in divorce cases is for divorcing couples to negotiate and enter divorce settlement agreements, which allows couples to avoid litigation and obtain uncontested divorces. The Collaborative Process is a better choice for divorcing couples where any of the following exist:
- On a scale of 1 to 10, the conflict level is a 4 or higher. The Collaborative Process has more resources than mediation, which allows it to succeed at greater conflict levels.
- The divorcing couple has minor children. In a collaborative case, a coach or coaches, all of whom are mental health professionals with significant parenting expertise, can be part of the professional team. When they are, the coach or coaches assist the spouses with agreeing upon a parenting plan, which consists of a parenting schedule (what a judge would call custody and visitation) and other parenting provisions.
- Either spouse is concerned the other may hire an adversarial, litigation-style attorney. This is highly unlikely to happen in the Collaborative Process, as attorneys who participate in collaborative cases must have extensive training in the Collaborative Process and all are active members of the Collaborative Professionals of Northern Virginia, the Virginia Collaborative Professionals (VaCP), and the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP). Additionally, in all collaborative divorce cases, the spouses and the attorneys enter a Collaborative Participation Agreement, in which there are rules in the Process which preclude attorneys from being adversarial. For example, lawyers are not permitted to make threats. In mediation, the attorneys are not formally part of the mediation process and may take a combative approach.
- There is any sort of power imbalance between the spouses. For example, one spouse knows all about the couple’s finances while the other does not, or one spouse is comfortable negotiating at a conference room table while the other is not. In the Collaborative Process, there is a great deal of support, hand-holding, and expertise available to the spouses, which tends to help even out these power imbalances. In the face-to-face meetings of the Collaborative process, each party has his or her attorney next to them every step of the way. In mediation, the neutral mediator is usually the only professional at mediation sessions.
HOW DO I PERSUADE MY HUSBAND OR WIFE TO DIVORCE COLLABORATIVELY?
If you want to divorce collaboratively and are unsure of how to get your spouse on-board with contacting a Fairfax, VA collaborative divorce lawyer, most often a subtly persuasive, low-pressure approach is the way to go. LEARN MORE.