What is Collaborative Divorce?
Residents of North Carolina who are facing divorce can choose between court-directed proceedings or collaborative law proceedings. In very simple terms, the collaborative divorce process means that divorcing spouses each hire an attorney who agrees to help the spouse that he or she represents reach a fair and equitable agreement through a process that does not require the involvement of a judge or jury. In fact, the attorneys specifically agree (and the North Carolina collaborative divorce statute requires) that they will not go to court, but instead will use collaborative law proceedings. As described more fully below, the focus on collaborative law proceedings removes the process from the adversarial court system, while at the same time allows each spouse to have their own experienced family law attorney helping them to safeguard their legal interests. It opens the door to a healthier, more transformative way to get through the divorce process.
What is the “Traditional” Process for Divorce?
Couples typically need legal help resolving the legal issues around separation and divorce. Divorce lawyers, operating within the adversarial system of the courts, typically operate competitively. They become the communication channel between the couple and tend to restrict direct communication between the spouses. Divorce lawyers routinely file in court to reach a resolution. This can make worse the already strained relationship between the spouses.
How does the Collaborative Process Differ from the Traditional Process?
Family law attorneys who use the collaborative divorce process help couples resolve the legal issues around separation and divorce without going to court. The collaborative process provides a healthier option. The attorneys highlighted on this website are specially trained and experienced in collaborative law proceedings, in non-adversarial conflict resolution, in interest-based negotiation, and in facilitating difficult conversations.
In collaborative law proceedings, the attorneys and their clients agree to fully and voluntarily disclose information. They agree that parenting decisions will be based on the best interests of the children. And they meet to resolve the legal issues surrounding the divorce in “four-way conferences” – conferences that include the two spouses and their attorneys. As described more fully below, the collaborative process is uniquely suited to provide support to the divorcing couple from licensed mental health professionals with special training in collaborative divorce, as well as financial consultants with specific training in both the collaborative process and the finances of divorce. This full team approach allows for a protected environment in which divorcing couples can face difficult decisions in safety and with the expert professional help they need.
The collaborative divorce process allows the spouses to reach agreements and avoid contentious court trials. It also promotes a healthy transition from the negative intimacy that has caused the deterioration of the marriage to a positive working relationship allowing them to communicate effectively.