Collaboration: A modern California alternative to traditional divorce

A family lawyer can explain the pros and cons of collaborative divorce in an individual situation.

Charles and Diana. Brad and Angelina. The level of animosity and the lack of privacy endured in these famous divorces may make you cringe. When thinking of your own impending divorce, however, options exist that can lessen these problems. One is collaborative law, a relatively new legal process to end a marriage that may minimize conflict and stress as well as increase privacy.

Terms of collaboration

The main feature of collaborative divorce is an agreement to stay out of court and to resolve all issues through respectful negotiation in a comprehensive agreement. The process is kicked off when the spouses sign on to a participation agreement in which they agree to these and other terms:

  • Negotiations will take place in a series of four-way meetings involving the parties and their respective attorneys.
  • Both parties will informally provide all relevant financial and personal information.
  • Each will conduct themselves with respect.
  • If the process fails, each party must get a new lawyer to represent them in traditional negotiation or trial, or perhaps in mediation or conciliation court.
  • Neutral experts may be retained to provide information or services to aid in the process like accountants, appraisers, parenting consultants, child therapists or others. One unique professional that is sometimes brought in is a divorce coach, likely a mental health professional, to help facilitate communication and assist through emotional impasses in the negotiation process.

Pros and cons

Collaboration can preserve the dignity of the family by avoiding the negativity resulting from finger pointing and argument. Instead, the focus is on creating a future blueprint and agreement for going forward with dignity. This can be especially helpful if there are children involved who will not have to endure the stress of their parents fighting in court.

For parties who are amenable to negotiation in this way, all matters may be quickly resolved and the process wrapped up faster than it might have otherwise, likely resulting in some cost savings. However, collaborative law should be carefully considered if the parties are at a high level of conflict because if the process drags on, paying two lawyers at each four-way meeting can become expensive.

Other indicators that might be red flags against collaboration include a history of dishonesty of one party or a personality that is excessively controlling. Parties to collaborative divorce need to be able to trust that each will be fully transparent and up front about financial and personal matters. If this is questionable, the formal discovery process in court may be safer.

Of course, if one person has a difficult personality or is quick to anger, or if there is a history of abuse or violence, it is not a good idea for the other party to participate in joint meetings, so collaboration would not be a good choice.

Whatever your circumstances, an experienced attorney can explain the various types of divorces in California make recommendations in light of your situation.

The lawyers of Palmer Rodak & Associates with offices in Del Mar and Oceanside, California, represent people throughout the San Diego area in collaborative divorces as well as in other alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation and conciliation court and in traditional divorce.