You might choose a Collaborative Divorce because you want to stay out of court, keep conflict to a minimum, and have control over the process.  You may want to have enough legal and emotional support and financial and tax education as possible to make informed agreements with your spouse or partner.

What might each of these goals look like?

In a Collaborative Divorce, no one enters a courtroom.  All legally required forms to get divorced are taken care of by your Collaborative attorneys.

Keeping conflict to a minimum is also a goal of divorce coaches.  You each have communication support in 4-way meetings (you and your coach and your spouse and their coach) to resolve as much of the tension as possible as you move through the process.  Divorce coaches are fully licensed mental health professionals who have years of training and experience helping divorcing couples and are invaluable to those using their services.

You have control over the timing of the divorce, meeting dates and times, topics discussed, and any agreements reached.  No one signs any agreements until they fully understand them and have had the benefit of the legal advice from their Collaborative attorneys and financial education from the neutral financial professional.

In a Collaborative Divorce, there are 4-way meetings (you and your attorney and your spouse and their attorney) to discuss the law as it relates to your case.  You and your family law attorney will have separate meetings so you are well prepared for any joint meetings which may include the neutral financial professional and divorce coaches.  Each meeting is designed to have the professionals in attendance who are needed for the topic.

The divorce coaches not only help with communication as noted above, they also help you draft a parenting plan that allows for both parents’ inputs in crafting a plan that meets the needs of your child or children and of each of you.  Divorce coaches and/or a child specialist provide guidance about the developmental stages of your children.  A great deal goes into a successful parenting plan, one that if well done you may never have to look at again!

The neutral financial professional is the one who gathers and reviews all the financial documents, prepares property and budget reports and the required legal financial disclosures.  They help couples understand their potential agreements from financial, tax, and reality standpoints.  As part of the neutral financial professional’s process, they are looking for all assets, debts, and income by reviewing tax returns, insurance documents, and credit reports to ensure all has been disclosed.

A hallmark of a Collaborative Divorce is that each of you and all your Collaborative professionals sign a Disqualification Agreement that says that if you do not reach agreement on one or more parts of your divorce and need to move to a court process, then the professionals all withdraw.  Your Collaborative attorney will help you find another appropriate family law attorney in the transition.  The reason for this agreement is to keep all of us solidly on the path to finding a satisfactory agreement.  It is in everyone’s best interest to complete the process with a durable agreement that each of you can accept.

A durable agreement can be reached when this client-centered process has been fully transparent, respectful, and done in good faith.  Your Collaborative Team helps you make that happen.

Judith F. Sterling, CDFA, CPA is a divorce financial professional practicing in San Francisco, Marin, and Sonoma Counties.  More information in her bio on the “Find A Professional” page.