How is collaborative divorce different from the traditional divorce process?

In collaborative divorce, you and your spouse each retain your own trained collaborative attorney to advise you on the law and advocate on your behalf. All negotiations take place in a series of four-way meetings where both spouses and lawyers attend. Both the parties and the lawyers commit that they will not go to court to resolve the dispute. If either party later decides to go to court, then both attorneys resign from the case, and the parties find new attorneys to represent them in court.

In traditional litigation, the process is controlled by court deadlines, the attorneys often speak on behalf of their clients and lawyers fight to win. In collaborative law, you and your spouse control the process and the timeframe. The lawyers work with you and your spouse to arrive at a mutually created settlement. The collaborative process may include jointly retained experts (such as financial experts, child specialists or mental health coaches) to help guide you and your spouse to the best resolutions for your particular circumstances. To the contrary, in litigation, you and your spouse hire separate experts to support your opinions, often at great cost.

Are collaborative divorce and mediation less expensive alternatives to traditional litigation?

Yes. Collaborative divorce and mediation may be more cost-effective than traditional litigation, because these non-adversarial alternatives do not require formal discovery, depositions, hearings with the court and document filings that require many hours of work by attorneys. The total cost of a collaborative divorce or mediation depend on a number of factors. These factors include the difficulty and number of issues to be resolved and the amount of time your attorney, mediator and/or other professionals spend on your case. In addition to attorney's fees, the costs include court costs (filing fees) and office expenses (copying, long distance telephone calls, postage, etc.). The cost of other helping professionals on your team will also affect your total expenses. These could include your divorce coach, a child specialist or your neutral financial specialist. The legal expenses and mediation services provided by KM Family Law can be paid by check or credit card.

How does mediation differ from collaborative divorce?

Both collaborative divorce and mediation are legal options for resolving conflict without going to court. In collaborative law, both parties have attorneys and the negotiations take place in a series of 4-way meetings. In mediation, a neutral mediator guides both parties in a direct discussion of their dispute. The mediator remains neutral and does not impose any decisions on the parties. Lawyers may or may not participate in a mediation.

Are collaborative law and mediation only for divorce?

Both collaborative law and mediation can be beneficial for a wide range of conflicts, particularly conflicts where the parties have a family or interpersonal relationship that could benefit from a non-adversarial approach but require the support of individual attorneys for each party. Examples include divorce, pre-marital agreements, co-habitation agreements, separation of unmarried couples and post-divorce conflicts.

How long does a divorce take using collaborative divorce or mediation?

Both collaborative law and mediation are flexible processes that can expand or contract to meet your needs. In collaborative divorce, most cases require from four to seven negotiation meetings. Mediation timelines vary greatly but are completely within the clients' control.

How do I know if collaborative divorce or mediation is the best choice for me?

To answer this question, consider whether both you and your spouse (or other person you are in conflict with) desire to resolve your dispute in a non-adversarial manner. If you both want a non-adversarial process, consider whether you would feel more comfortable with personal legal representation during the negotiations or you are comfortable negotiating directly in the presence of a mediator. If you prefer attorney representation and the opportunity to enlist financial and mental health experts in the process, collaborative divorce may be the best option. If you are comfortable using an attorney as a consultant only outside of the negotiations, then mediation is probably the most cost-effective method for you. I am happy to meet with you or together with you and your spouse to discuss these options.

How do I enlist my spouse in the collaborative divorce process?

For the process to be effective, both parties must understand the collaborative process and want to use it to resolve their legal matter. Encourage your spouse to visit www.collaborativelaw.org and learn more about collaborative divorce and find local attorneys and other collaborative professionals. Both of you should be doing your research. Another great website for more information on this practice is the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (www.collaborativepractice.com). You and your spouse could also come in to meet me together and I can review your options. After talking, I can recommend other collaborative attorneys or litigators if you decide on that process.

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