In a few words, a collaborative divorce is when the married couple, with the assistance of their attorneys, sits down and resolves all marital issues without the need of filing a lawsuit. It is an agreement to agree, to play fair, in the dissolution of the marriage. Often times a collaborative divorce will offer a more logical choice in resolving all marital issues than trying to navigate through litigation.
Why is it better to collaborate than to file a lawsuit and sue?
This is a complex question, that I could spend hours answering…the short answer is this: a lawsuit may take years in and out of court (a public setting), cost thousands of dollars, and prevent one, or both, of you from the ability to move on with your life. A collaborative divorce can allow both of you to work together in achieving the best results for your family.
There are a lot of options on how to proceed with your separation and ultimate divorce from your spouse. On one hand, if you both are working together through the process, a simple Separation Agreement and Property Settlement may suffice. However, it takes two of you to agree on all terms for this method to prevail, and there is no requirement to disclose assets. On the other hand, if you, or both of you, are refusing to communicate then litigation may be the only option. If you choose to litigate your case, you will force a judge to ultimately make necessary decisions regarding your marriage, even where your children will sleep at night – a decision that should only be made by you and your spouse, the child’s parents.
A collaborative Divorce will allow you to work with your own attorney, to ensure your rights are protected, without having to go through a potentially messy public trial. North Carolina is one of a few states that govern the collaborative divorce process. The North Carolina General Statues define Collaborative law, in § 50-71(1) as the “procedure in which a husband and wife who are separated and are seeking a divorce, or are contemplating separation and divorce, and their attorneys agree to use their best efforts and make a good faith attempt to resolve their disputes arising from the marital relationship on an agreed basis.” The goal of the parties shall remain to resolve all issues without the need for filing a lawsuit. The terms of the representation by your attorney will be clearly defined, where the attorneys must withdraw from the case if no resolution is found, and the case can then move into the litigation phase.
By entering into a collaborative divorce contract, you agree to use your best efforts to resolve all marital issues together, where the parties are all on the same playing field. This method facilitates open and honest communication and avoids the ugliness of litigation (the pointing of fingers, accusations or discussions of marital misconduct, the cost, and the threats of multiple lawsuits). A collaborative divorce will allow each party to focus on a productive relationship, where full disclosure of all pertinent documents is essential, and the parties can hopefully salvage a cordial relationship for the benefit of their children, as well as family and friends.
The collaborative process will take patience and work. However, this process allows the parties to work together in making their own decisions on matters, benefiting all involved, especially the children.