When a couple chooses to get a divorce, they often start out wanting a civil, dignified separation. However, if a simple, or absolute, divorce is not possible due to having children, shared property, or joint bank accounts, the only other option is the contested divorce. A contested divorce requires a judge to determine the terms of child custody, support, and property division. Due to the nature of the divorce, in which one party “wins” the settlement and the other side “loses,” this type of divorce often terns bitter and acrimonious and can lead to long term resentment and difficulties.
Fortunately, there is a new option that is becoming popular for couples who want an amicable divorce. By working with an Beaufort collaborative divorce attorney, both parties agree to work out the terms of their divorce outside a courtroom.
Choosing collaboration means that both parties agree to settle everything themselves, outside of a courtroom and without the need to include a judge. Both parties reach out to a collaborative divorce law firm for representation. Then, they each sign a statement agreeing that if they are, for any reason, unable to negotiate the terms of their divorce outside the courtroom, they will each hire new counsel and begin the process of litigation in court.
Unlike in litigation where a lawyer’s role is to fight on their client’s behalf to ensure they win the terms of their divorce, in a collaboration, the lawyer’s role is much different. Prior to the negotiation proceedings beginning, the collaborative divorce attorney will sit down with their client and discuss goals and expectations.
During negotiation, counsel acts as mediators to keep the process moving forward in a positive and productive manner. One of the major differences between litigation and collaboration is the assistance of unbiased experts. During litigation, witnesses may be called to help one party over the other, but in collaboration, a collaborative family law attorney may ask an unbiased expert to come in to help both parties, including:
As both parties agree, the attorneys include these statements into the settlement agreement. When all terms are negotiated, the lawyers draft a final agreement that both parties review, make edits if needed, and sign when they are satisfied.
While collaboration is a fairly new option for couples seeking a divorce, it is becoming popular for several reasons. The main reason is that couples who wish to divorce amicably and remain civil don’t have to worry about fighting out their divorce terms in court. Instead, a couple can choose to negotiate their own terms in a way where no one wins or loses, but instead both people move forward benefiting from the agreed-upon terms.
Not having to see a judge also is beneficial for couples who may have very unique needs like creating a custody agreement that works with unique job schedules or includes extended family. While a judge may set strict terms in a standard custody arrangement, parents who negotiate their own custody can create a unique arrangement that’s best for everyone.
Also, working with a collaborative divorce attorney is much less expensive than litigation. The timeline is much shorter which means a significant decrease in legal fees.
Not every divorce lawyer offers collaboration. In Beaufort, the only collaborative divorce lawyer is:
Prior to choosing a law firm, it’s important for a couple to be realistic about their ability to negotiate terms on their own. If one party is unwilling or unable to compromise or if the negotiations can’t remain civil, litigation may actually be a better option.
If you would like to learn more about collaboration in divorce and determine if it’s right for you, contact Attorney Ashley-Nicole Russell at (252) 702-4376 to schedule a consultation.