Heidi E. Opinsky

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Collaborative Divorce: What Is It & Do I Need It?

The process of divorce can be time-consuming, stressful, and costly. Collaborative divorce can help. While the majority of divorces aren’t as dramatic as those on TV, they certainly aren’t easy. A divorce typically requires you to hire a lawyer and depending on whether or not you and your spouse agree on various issues of your divorce, you may spend months or even years in litigation. 

Divorce alternatives like collaborative divorce and mediation can be viable ways to reduce the overall expense and time it takes to dissolve your marriage. Here’s what to know and how to get help from an experienced New York and Connecticut divorce lawyer.

Collaborative Divorce Defined

Collaborative divorce is a form of alternative dispute resolution then allows the couple to negotiate the terms of their separation outside of court. When this type of divorce is successful, litigation becomes unnecessary and your divorce can cost less money and take less time than a traditionally litigated divorce. 

Instead of arguing with your spouse in front of a judge, collaborative divorce allows you to use a combination of negotiation and mediation to reach a compromise on important issues relating to your divorce, such as child custody, alimony, and debt and asset division. A neutral, third-party mediator will help you draft your divorce decree, which will then be sent to the court for approval. 

In almost all cases, a court will not make changes to a divorce decree that was created during the mediation process. What happens instead is the terms you and your spouse decided on will become legally binding once your decree is finalized by a judge.

How It Works 

A collaborative divorce starts with a conversation between you and your spouse. At this time, you will determine if you are both able and willing to work with each other, negotiate, and make compromises during the mediation process. If either spouse is unable or unwilling to participate in negotiations or make concessions, you will not be able to successfully have a collaborative divorce and will likely need to pursue litigation. 

Then, each spouse hires their own respective divorce lawyer. You’ll discuss with your attorney your divorce goals, including what you consider to be the best-case scenario for property division, child custody and visitation, spousal support, etc. Your attorney will then be able to advocate for your best interest during divorce negotiations. 

You should also consider assembling a team of professionals to address critical matters, like your finances and child welfare. For example, your collaborative divorce team might include a child psychologist, a forensic accountant, a divorce coach, and your personal attorney. Your spouse may also use any professionals who are not your lawyer. 

At the first meeting between you, your spouse, and your attorneys, you will usually sign a no-court agreement, which enables both lawyers to withdraw their counsel if either spouse decides to end the process of collaborative divorce and start litigation. You and your spouse will likely have a number of negotiation meetings, where both of you will meet with your lawyers, your professional team, and each other to discuss a mutually agreeable divorce settlement.

After you and your spouse reach a consensus regarding the terms of your divorce, your attorneys will draft a divorce settlement agreement that each of you will sign. Do not sign this document unless you fully agree to all of the terms of the divorce. Modification may be difficult or impossible depending on what needs to be changed. 

Then, your lawyers will send the agreement to the court for approval. In most cases, a judge will approve a collaborative divorce agreement without making any changes, unless for some reason the agreement is unfair or unreasonable to one spouse. At this time, your divorce becomes final and the terms of the agreement are legally enforceable.

How to Know If Collaborative Divorce Is Ideal For You 

Deciding if collaborative divorce will work for you depends on several factors, but namely, the chief consideration is whether or not both spouses are interested in and dedicated to working with each other. If you can find a way to set aside disagreements for the greater good of your family and potentially a better divorce outcome, a collaborative divorce may save both you and your spouse time and money dissolving your marriage. 

Contact Divorce Lawyer Heidi Opinsky Today for Help 

Heidi Opinsky is a veteran Connecticut and New York divorce lawyer with extensive experience facilitating collaborative divorces. Attorney Opinsky can help you decide if collaborative divorce is right for your circumstances and will guide you through each stage of the negotiation process. Call today for a consultation at 203-653-3542.