A collaborative separation and divorce is a flexible method to craft agreements and solutions with each spouse having their own Attorney without having to go to Court and litigate.
What is Collaborative Law?
The Collaborative process is an alternate method to separation and divorce.
The collaborative process is not something completely new, as lawyers and parties have always negotiated in an attempt to settle their disputes even during litigation. However, as more people recognize the impact and toll that litigation and high-conflict divorce has on a person this method of settlement has gained more popularity.
Collaborative law is a solution-oriented process to allow couples to separate and divorce on their own terms. A collaborative separation and divorce is a flexible method to craft agreements and solutions with each spouse having their own Attorney without having to go to Court and litigate.
The Collaborative approach is based upon the interests and priorities for the couple and family and not just what a Judge deems to be fair after a short snap-shot picture of the couple, marriage, and family. During the collaborative process you work with trained professionals who assist you. The collaborative separation approach allows for open communication and information sharing.
North Carolina has a specific set of statutes for collaborative law proceedings in Chapter 50 Article 4. The statutory definition of Collaborative law is:
Collaborative Law Defined: “A 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 procedure shall include an agreement by the parties to attempt to resolve their disputes without having to resort to judicial intervention, except to have the court approve the settlement agreement and sign the orders required by law to effectuate the agreement of the parties as the court deems appropriate. The procedure shall also include an agreement where the parties’ attorneys agree not to serve as litigation counsel, except to ask the court to approve the settlement agreement.”
Steps in the Collaborative Divorce Process:
1. Sign a Participation Agreement –
Both parties with their collaboratively trained lawyers will sign a Participation Agreement. This agreement is a pledge that both parties sign agreeing to use the collaborative process as the exclusive means to resolve their disputes. All parties agree that they will not file and initiate a lawsuit during the collaborative process. As a further incentive to reach an agreement outside of Court and not turn to litigation, the parties agree that they will not be permitted to use their collaborative counsel for any litigation that arises relating to the same or similar issues addressed in the collaborative process.
2. Begin the Exchange of information –
Each party will meet separately with their lawyer and then they will have a group collaborative session to begin identifying the information that needs to be exchanged to move towards identifying a resolution.
3. Identify interests and goals –
The next step, is to begin to identify goals and interests for each party individually, as well as shared goals and interests. This helps lead to identification of resolutions.
4. Brainstorm solutions –
During this stage, the parties through counsel, will brainstorm solutions that fit one another’s interests and goals. It is truly a brainstorming process and there is no wrong answer at this stage.
5. Evaluate and select proposals –
The parties and their lawyers will next begin to review and evaluate the various proposals to craft a proposal that meets each party’s needs.
6. Final Settlement Agreement –
Your hard work has paid off! The lawyers will draft an agreement that all parties will sign. This Agreement is an enforceable settlement agreement.