Have you ever heard the term “Collaborative Divorce”? If not, and the concept sounds intriguing, you are in the right place! Hartung Schroeder can assist you with this unique approach to dissolution of marriage. Collaborative Divorce is a solution-based approach to the divorce process that is sweeping the nation – both for its peaceful approach to “unmarrying” families and for its lower cost alternative to traditional litigation. The basic concept behind Collaborative Divorce is this: Families do not belong in court. Divorce is not merely a legal process. If anything, it is mostly an emotional process.
Yet, traditional divorce tries to keep the emotions on the sideline by focusing on each party’s legal position. Often the court process itself can cause trauma for families. For families, for mothers/fathers, for husbands/wives; the litigation-centered divorce approach is just not natural. The “parties” are two people who, at one point, chose to commit themselves to each other and to build a life together. When most people are first getting married, neither spouse can do wrong; their positives completely outweigh any negatives. When parties are contemplating divorce, it is an entirely different story. Anger and mistrust have taken over, and spouses interpret any action by the other spouse as an intentional slight against them. Often, this reaction is rooted in fear: fear of the future, fear of the unknown, and fear of being taken advantage of. There has to be a better way to “unmarry” these spouses – who were once so in love – without a knock-down-drag-out fight. There has to be a better way to unwind the lives of these two individuals without creating another trauma.
Collaborative Divorce is the better way. Collaborative Divorce keeps families out of court. Each spouse has their own separate attorney, and the two attorneys are there solely for the purpose of reaching an out-of-court agreement. Zero time, zero energy, and zero money go towards preparing for court hearings. The attorneys’ focus is entirely on helping the family move forward. The goal is for the parties to move on with their lives as painlessly as possible. Plain and simple. With Collaborative Divorce, the spouses are bound by a contract, known as a Participation Agreement, that prohibits their Collaborative attorneys from being used in court. On the rare occasion the spouses are unable to reach an agreement and must proceed to court, their Collaborative attorneys would withdraw and the spouses would hire new trial counsel. Incidentally, the majority of spouses going through a Collaborative Divorce reach a full agreement. They are committed to a peaceful process from the beginning, and it shows in their outcomes.
Collaborative Divorce is the better way to help families process the emotions of divorce. Attorneys are equipped to advise and to make arguments for our clients. We aren’t specifically trained to handle the emotional aspects of divorce. However, therapists and mental-health professionals are equipped for this. They specialize in family dynamics, interpersonal communication, and child development. They can help develop a parenting plan – when children are involved – that is developmentally and emotionally tailored to meet your children’s needs. These professionals are brought into the Collaborative Divorce process to cut through the emotional baggage and help spouses reach an agreement. To help you see beyond the past so you can get to your better future. To help you move on. To help you move forward. It is as simple as that.
Collaborative Divorce is also the better way to help families process the financial questions involved in divorce. Attorneys are not specifically trained in the art of financial analysis. Similar to the mental health experts, neutral financial experts can also be brought in to provide – among other things – income projections, budgeting solutions, and retirement projections for spouses involved in the divorce process. In the Collaborative Divorce process, parties agree to provide the financial professional with documentation of all marital assets. They agree to full financial transparency. With this agreement, the financial professional can review the financial documents and help the parties address concerns and jointly plan for the future. Retaining a Collaborative financial professional can also end up saving a family money in their divorce. In Iowa, divorcing spouses are required to exchange mandatory financial information and documents. In traditional court-based divorce, spouses do this through their attorneys. In Collaborative Divorce, both spouses work with one neutral financial expert. The financial expert is just that – an expert. They can work faster and cheaper than the attorneys to collect and analyze the spouses’ financial data. And, because they are working with both spouses, they will not need to request duplicate information for each spouse and there will be no reason to complete the traditional “discovery” process. This often saves clients thousands of dollars when they choose Collaborative divorce.
Collaborative Divorce is a simple and sensible idea based on the concept that families don’t belong in court. Emotions are not ignored, but rather they are incorporated into the process so that spouses can move forward in their lives. And families can benefit by a better understanding of their finances so that they can make smarter financial decisions more efficiently. If you are contemplating divorce, Laura Lockwood with Hartung Schroeder is trained in Collaborative Divorce and can assist you through this unique and forward-thinking divorce process.
ABOUT LAURA LOCKWOOD
Laura Lockwood is a collaborative attorney and mediator, practicing primarily in the area of family law. Having received extensive training in the collaborative and mediation processes, Laura believes strongly that peacemaking is an invaluable skill — particularly in family law. You can read more about Laura or get in touch with her here.