Collaborative Divorce – A New Cooperative Approach to Divorce Negotiations
In a traditional contested divorce, spouses hire lawyers to outmaneuver each other and “win” their divorce. This adversarial process frequently exaggerates disputes rather than solving them. Litigation drastically increases the cost of divorce, drags out the case, and often creates hostility and resentments that often come to the surface later.
Collaborative divorce is a fairly new process which takes the confrontations and tricks out of the equation. Similar to pre-suit mediation, the collaborative divorce process is voluntary and is geared toward an out-of-court settlement. Unlike pre-suit mediation, you have a lawyer at your side throughout the process to explain every step and protect your interests.
Attorney William J. Leininger has over 42 years experience as a Divorce attorney. He has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1988. He limits his Florida Divorce practice to Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce matters. He is also a Supreme Court Certified Family mediator. He has handled many divorce cases involving substantial assets, businesses, medical practices, and Civil Service pensions. Mr. Leininger is proud to be a member of Next Generation Divorce, an association of Collaborative Divorce professionals who practice in Sarasota and Tampa.
What is a collaborative divorce?
Collaborative divorce is an alternative divorce process. The parties and their attorneys sign a participation agreement committing to resolve all divorce issues through cooperation and negotiation and agreeing not to litigate. This is accomplished through a series of conferences in which the parties work together toward a negotiated settlement. In the event the process is not successful, the attorneys must withdraw from representation, and the parties must hire new attorneys before proceeding with litigation.
What are the advantages of collaborative divorce?
It is generally less expensive than traditional divorce litigation. For instance, parties agree to share pertinent information freely, avoiding the necessity of formal discovery conducted by their attorneys. Less work means less attorney’s fees. Additionally, if experts are needed, the parties will often retain joint experts, as opposed to the expense of each side hiring their own competing experts.
It is less time consuming. The collaborative divorce process can usually be accomplished in several sessions over a two- to four-month period. By comparison, traditional divorce proceedings may take over a year to go to trial and several additional years to complete appeals.
Collaboration usually results in a better settlement. Every family is unique and every family deserves a settlement which addresses their particular needs. The collaborative process produces final agreements that are typically more detailed and complete than any Court order that would be issued by a judge after a contested proceeding in Court.
Collaborative Divorce lays the groundwork for a better future for the parties. There is no 100% pain-free way to end any marriage, but by working cooperatively and treating each other with respect through this process, you and your spouse can lay the groundwork for a less adversarial future; one in which each parent can better parent the children.
Are other professionals involved in a Collaborative Divorce?
During the collaborative process a team of professionals may be assembled to assist the parties in understanding and resolving their disputes. These professionals may include mental health counselors, neutral financial advisors, Certified Public Accountants, parenting specialists, child specialists, vocational experts, and appraisers. Usually the parties choose to retain a neutral joint expert and to share the cost. This cuts down on the expense of expert assistance and avoids a potential “battle of the experts.”
How does the collaborative divorce process work?
First, both spouses meet with their collaborative attorneys to discuss their needs and concerns. The parties and attorneys then enter into a participation agreement agreeing to use the collaborative divorce process. Then, the couple and their attorneys proceed to meet in four-way sessions for the purpose of reaching a settlement without involving the court. During these sessions, financial information and records are voluntarily exchanged, issues are identified and discussed, and settlement alternatives are explored. When an agreement is reached, one of the attorneys will draft the parties’ marital settlement agreement addressing all of the issues. This legally binding written agreement is then submitted to the court for approval without having to go through a long court hearing.
What is a participation agreement?
A participation agreement or collaborative commitment agreement is the key feature of the collaborative divorce process. This agreement is signed by the parties and their attorneys and typically provides that:
Each party will voluntarily disclose all pertinent financial information. All efforts will be made to negotiate a divorce agreement without going to court. If experts are required, the parties will hire one neutral expert. If an impasse is reached and litigation becomes necessary, the collaborative attorneys will withdraw and litigation attorneys will be hired to represent the parties in court.
What happens if settlement can’t be reached?
Even if you are not able to reach a complete settlement of all the issues in dispute, it may be possible to reach a settlement of some of the issues, which will result in a narrowing the issues that will need to be decided by the Court. This generally saves substantial time and money for the parties. The remaining disputed issues will then be submitted to the Court for resolution. The collaborative attorneys will withdraw from representation, and each party will hire a litigation attorney to present the disputed issues to the Court.
Is collaborative divorce the best choice for you?
Although the collaborative divorce process can be more expensive than mediation, it may frequently be better suited for cases involving serious child custody issues, substantial permanent alimony, or substantial assets, since each party will have legal counsel on hand to make suggestions, evaluate options, and watch out for your legal interests. However, collaborative divorce, like mediation, is not for everyone, particularly if you have been a victim of domestic violence, if there is a history of significant financial misconduct, or if your spouse will refuse to share all the financial information.
What issues can a collaborative divorce address?
A collaborative divorce will address all issues related to your divorce, including:
Alimony of all types, including temporary support durational alimony and permanent alimony Child support calculations, modification and enforcement Custody, visitation and time sharing, including interstate jurisdictional issues Marital property division, including allocation of retirement benefits and joint assets and debts Parent relocation disputes Post-judgment modifications and enforcement of custody matters, child support or alimony Shared parenting arrangements Temporary relief, including spousal support, child support, custody and visitation, exclusive use and occupancy of the marital home and access to marital assets while the divorce is pending.
Attorney William J. Leininger has handled thousands of divorce cases in 42 years of Family Law practice and has extensive experience in collaborative divorce and alternatives to litigation. He can help you decide if collaborative divorce is the best path for you. He is also a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, and Next Generation Divorce, a group of Collaborative Divorce Professionals who practice in the Tampa-Sarasota area.
Contact us online at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 941-727-5555 to schedule a Free 30 minute confidential consultaton to discuss collaborative divorce with Sarasota attorney William J. Leininger. Your spouse may not attend this conference. He serves the Greater Sarasota area, including Sarasota, Longboat Key, Siesta Key, Anna Maria Island, Lakewood Ranch and nearby communities in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties.
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