Collaborative Divorce: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions we receive at Peacemakers Collaborative Law Center.

What is collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce is a new method for resolving family law disputes and reaching a marital settlement agreement outside of the courtroom. Instead of having a judge decide on how your assets should be divided, how much child support will be paid, or how much time you have with your children, you and your spouse will decide that with the help of trained collaborative attorneys and professional "neutrals". Think "collective bargaining". It starts out with two sides who think they want very different outcomes. Compromise may seem unreachable. But when each side gets time to consider all of the options, in consultation with neutral experts, they almost always can respectfully come to a sensible and fair agreement.

How is it different from mediated agreements?

In divorces filed with the courts today, mediation is always required. You exchange financial information, and then schedule a mediation session, where you might sit for several hours trying to hash out some of the issues you deem important, while not necessarily understanding or knowing your spouse's position on those issues. Often you are separated and the mediator goes back and forth between you, trying to work out "a deal". If no agreement is reached, the mediator declares an "impasse", and you then have to go to court. In contrast, with the collaborative process, prior to the first meeting, all financial information is provided to one neutral financial professional. The professional team of attorneys and facilitators has a meeting to set the agenda of issues to be resolved at each meeting. If necessary, the children and/or parties can meet with a mental health profession separately to work out a parenting plan. Then, armed with all of this information, you sit for your first collective meeting, and lay out all possible options for reorganizing your family, including asset division, responsibility for debts, and time-sharing with your children.

Does collaborative divorce cost more than contested divorce?

The biggest issue when hiring a lawyer for a divorce matter if often the expense. In collaborative divorce, you hear about all the professionals involved and immediately assume it is far beyond your financial ability. But that is not necessarily true. While the initial retainer for a contested divorce case might seem lower than paying several deposits to the collaborative professionals on your team, you will find that contested cases will quickly deplete your initial deposit, and you will have to keep paying additional fees and costs to your litigating lawyer. In contrast, with the collaborative process, fees for all the professionals involved are agreed upon and paid from marital funds, as part of the overall settlement. Typically, the total fees and costs for a collaborative divorce are far lower than the total fees and costs for litigated divorces.

How long does the process take?

A typical litigated divorce takes 18-24 months to work its way through the court system. However, a typical collaborative case can be completed in 3-6 months, depending on how many meetings are required to work through all of the issues.

What's so good about collaborative divorce?

There are several benefits to the collaborative divorce process verses the contested court case. First and foremost, you and your soon to be ex-spouse will be making the decisions, rather than the person wearing the black robe. The collaborative process is respectful and restores a sense of some control to both spouses. The collaborative process can proceed at whatever pace the couple decides, rather than being dependent on long and crowded court dockets. And it is more confidential; new rules permit the couple to keep their settlement agreement and financial records private, rather than filing them with the Clerk of Court as publicly available documents. Most importantly for divorcing parents, the collaborative process sets an example for your children, who love both of you, as to how two adults who may disagree with one another can act respectfully and settle their differences without violence or anger.

Get All Your Questions Answered

If you have additional questions about the collaborative divorce process or want to discuss whether it could work for you, call our Brandon office at 888-515-4347 or email us. Our attorneys have more than 30 collective years of experience helping Florida individuals and families peacefully resolve their disputes. Peacemakers Collaborative Law Center is a division of the Brandon Family Law Center.