is the thorough conviction
that nobody can get there
unless everybody gets there.
-Virginia Burden


Ending your marriage wasn’t part of your plan, and the truth is, divorce is one of the most challenging tasks you’ll ever undertake. But now that you’ve found yourself on the path to divorce, you owe it to yourself to conclude your marriage in a way that maintains dignity and arrives at a fair outcome, thereby reducing current and future conflict for everyone involved.

Many people have found that Collaborative Divorce (also called “collaborative law”) is a less stressful, more dignified path because it focuses on negotiation rather than confrontation.

In the spirit of keeping relations between the couple as amicable as possible, Collaborative Divorces do not end up in court, which many couples find removes conflict, uncertainty and pressure from the process. In Collaborative Divorce, you will create a support team that includes your specially-trained attorney, a Financial Specialist, your spouse and their attorney, and as needed, Divorce Coaches and a Child Specialist. Yes - you and your spouse, along with your respective attorneys and the specialists, are all on the same team - a major conceptual departure from traditional divorce. Using this model, the team works together to find the best outcomes for everyone.

Collaborative Divorce is not mediation, and it’s not another name for an amicable, uncontested, or no-fault divorce: it’s a legal term for a special kind of divorce process.

Collaborative Divorce is not a good choice in high-conflict marriages, in cases of domestic violence or child abuse, or if there are issues such as extremely poor communication or lack of trust.

Collaborative Divorce may be the right path if you:

  • plan to co-parent
  • wish to stay connected to shared networks of family and friends
  • intend to move through the divorce process as gracefully as possible
  • hope to avoid facing your spouse in court

The main goals of Collaborative Divorce:

  • help all parties understand and adapt to the changes in their lives
  • assist you and your spouse in making the best possible financial decisions
  • be the voice of the children (if any) in the divorce process

The ground rules of Collaborative Divorce:

  • agree not to go to court
  • maintain open communication
  • honestly share information
  • negotiate transparently, respectfully, and in good faith
  • create solutions based on priorities and facts, not feelings
  • make decisions about any children based on their best interests, and treat them as serious stakeholders in the process

What to Expect

You can expect several “four-way meetings”, that is, sit-down conversations with the couple and both attorneys, and open engagement with your soon-to-be-ex. It is a process of compromise, finding creative solutions, and negotiation. Many people find that Collaborative Divorce offers a certain dignity to all parties at this difficult time, and they feel more satisfied that their priorities have been heard, and that the outcome is fair.

Collaborative Divorce requires a commitment to the process, to fairness and respect, to the best possible outcome, to honesty and civility. Fairness to everyone involved is top-of-mind - not “beating” the other party.

Collaborative Divorce differs from Mediation (one neutral professional who hears both sides and makes a determination) in that it offers the legal protection of your own attorney who advocates for you, though not in adversarial way. Unlike other divorce processes, Collaborative Divorce also offers mental health oversight, and puts any children at the center of the discussion.

Understanding that the process of uncoupling is an extremely difficult one, even under the best of circumstances, and that deep emotion sometimes takes the place of good intentions, there is a baked-in incentive to stick with the process: if the Collaborative Divorce process breaks down, both parties must end their relationship with their respective attorneys and start the divorce process over from the beginning with new counsel. The same attorneys (or others from the same firm) are barred from representing either spouse outside of the Collaborative Divorce process.

Many people have found that Collaborative Divorce may be less expensive than other types of divorce, because of the preparation it asks of both parties, as well as the lack of court appearances.

The Collaborative Team

The collaborative team is a group of professionals trained to help you make decisions, process emotions, and assure that solutions are best for you, your future, and any children. Select your attorney first. You’ll decide in consultation with your attorney who else to include on the team, based on the needs of your family.

Your team is composed of:

  • you and your spouse, and both of your attorneys
  • a Financial Specialist (as needed)
  • one or more trained mental health professionals serving as a Divorce Coach (as needed)
  • a Child Specialist (as needed)

Collaborative Attorneys

Attorneys are specially trained in collaborative law practices; communicating, facilitating, negotiating, and finding creative solutions. Collaborative Attorneys work together with clients, advocate for them, offer legal protection, and help to resolve conflicts amicably and comprehensively. They will not represent you in court, since that option is off the table in Collaborative Divorce.

Financial Specialist

The Financial Specialist gives you the information you need to preserve your wealth, divide your assets, and protect your financial future. The Financial Specialist is experienced in calculating many different financial scenarios to show you what your financial options are. This lets you decide what type of financial settlement will help both of you create and maintain financial stability. They are generally present with the attorneys when the meetings focus on finances.

Divorce Coach

You and your spouse may each, or both, elect to have a Divorce Coach on your team. Divorce Coaches help you uncouple any old, dysfunctional relationship habits by helping you process the emotional part of the break-up and build the skills you need in order to create a respectful divorce and move on with your life.

Divorce Coaches are often invited to the “four-way” meetings between you and your partner and the attorneys to facilitate communication. Divorce Coaches also help you exit your marriage in a more elevated emotional and mental place than you would have otherwise done, assuring you a better future. If there are children in the relationship, Divorce Coaches may assist the parents and Child Specialist in learning how to co-parent them together from different homes, and/or in developing a parenting plan.

Child Specialist

The Child Specialist joins the team when children are involved, and works with both parents and children. They help the children understand and process their parents’ divorce and act as the children’s voice in developing a parenting plan. The Child Specialist helps the parents understand the adjustment needs of their children through this time of change, and helps the parents learn to co-parent from separate homes.

Next Steps

To learn more about how the Collaborative Divorce process may apply to your individual circumstances, start by contacting an attorney above to schedule a consultation.

Initial consultations are generally free of charge, and last about 30 minutes. You'll discuss how the Collaborative Divorce process works, a rough outline of your financial picture, thoughts on co-parenting (if that applies), as well as fee structure and general timeline. Bring your questions, and be prepared to evaluate how well you think you'll work with this attorney; as the process will likely take several months, it's important to feel that you have a comfortable match.

We look forward to helping you write a successful next chapter.