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The Pros and Cons of Collaborative Divorce

Without some significant areas of disagreement, few couples are likely to decide to divorce. Unfortunately, those disagreements typically lead to emotional thinking that can make the divorce process highly contentious and keep the parties from reaching a reasonable agreement without help from a judge who does not even know them.

Except in unusually extreme cases, our Minneapolis divorce attorneys assure our clients that a number of well-tested methods exist to help them focus on logic rather than emotion. Collaborative divorce is just one of those methods.

According to the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, collaborative law actually started in Minneapolis in the late 1980s, so the term may be more familiar to Minnesotans. The real question is whether this is the most appropriate method of divorce for our clients.

Collaborative Divorce is Highly Structured

In essence, every collaborative divorce is based on a legal contract. Both parties must retain collaborative lawyers and enter into a written agreement that spells out the details of how the divorce will proceed.

In addition to voluntarily disclosing all relevant information pertaining to the decisions that must be made, the parties typically agree to use a team of mental health, financial and other professionals as appropriate to guide them through their specific issues.

Once couples sign a collaborative divorce contract, they go through a series of meetings to negotiate the terms of their divorce. If they successfully negotiate all terms, they benefit by making their own decisions rather than leaving them in the hands of a judge. However, if even one issue remains unresolved, the process ends. At this point, couples have to retain new attorneys and start the divorce process over from the beginning.

Other Methods Encourage Cooperation Without Excessive Structure

For some couples, the degree of structure in collaborative divorce might make it a perfect choice. However, the overall goal of divorce is really to keep as many decisions as possible out of the hands of the judge. For this, couples need a cooperative spirit and an experienced Minnesota divorce lawyer can offer other less-restrictive techniques that can accomplish this goal:

  • Mediation: Probably the best-known method involves mediation. Both parties should still retain their own lawyers who represent their clients’ interests while guiding them toward agreement on many terms of the divorce without additional intervention. However, when agreement seems impossible, a mediator is a neutral third party who can resolve conflicts. Mediators are not decision-makers; their job is to help couples focus on the facts while putting emotions to the side. The final decisions still fall in the hands of the divorcing parties. When agreement remains impossible on some issues, a judge can still step in to make the final decision.
  • Early neutral evaluation (ENE): This technique basically operates like an informed crystal ball. In essence, an evaluator hears arguments pertaining to the divorce terms and obtains as many facts as possible. After eliminating areas in which both parties already agree, the evaluator then predicts the outcome of other issues based on all information received. Ideally, both parties would agree to ENE. If only one party requests an evaluation, the results might not be completely neutral. Either way, ENE assessments can facilitate agreement on the challenging issues by offering an educated prediction of the decisions a judge might make.
  • Arbitration: In rare cases, attorneys on both sides of a divorce may agree that their clients’ conflict is at a level that requires a third party decision on some or all terms of divorce. Arbitration is similar to divorce court by requiring a neutral arbitrator to hear arguments before deciding the terms of divorce. The potential advantages of arbitration include the relative speed when compared to courtroom proceedings, along with a greater degree of privacy.

Cooperation Reduces Family Stress

The important thing to know is that there are many ways to improve the effects of divorce on the entire family. The methods couples choose to go through the divorce process can go a long way to devising creative solutions that help spouses emerge with good new lives — while helping children move forward without debilitating emotional issues.

Our Minneapolis divorce law firm prides itself on using creative methods that help provide our clients with the opportunity to reduce the stress. To begin an assessment that educates you on your best options, call us at (763) 783-5146 or use our convenient contact form.