Divorce is never an easy process, but if you and your soon-to-be-former spouse are still on good terms, you may be able to make it a little less stressful by agreeing to a collaborative divorce. This type of divorce has been available for a number of years, but in Pennsylvania it was codified into law in 2018. What is collaborative divorce? Read on to learn more and find out if it might be right for you.
What Is Collaborative Divorce?
To understand collaborative divorce, it's helpful to know what the alternative looks like. In a conventional divorce, you and your spouse depend on the courts to divide your assets and set out guidelines for child custody. The process depends on a judge's understanding of your situation, and can involve outside experts such as accountants and child welfare experts.
Collaborative divorce takes a different path. To begin, you and your spouse agree not to involve the courts. You are each represented by a lawyer, but your lawyers agree that they won't take your divorce in court. This is an important point because it means that if your situation changes and you do end up in court, you will need to get a different lawyer to represent you—which can come with a significant cost. The arrangement incentivizes everyone to commit to an out-of-court resolution.
With your lawyers, you and your spouse work together to reach the best agreement for both of you. This process relies on each spouse to be forthcoming about their financial situation and their assets. If you have kids, you and your spouse will work together in good faith to determine how to share custody of your children and the financial responsibility of caring for them. You might also rely on the services of outside professionals like financial advisors or child welfare specialists to provide guidance about the right solutions for your family.
Is Collaborative Divorce Right for You?
Collaborative divorce can be a great way for some couples to avoid the stress and expense of going to court, but it isn't right for everyone. Here are some indications that it might work for your situation.
- You and your spouse still communicate well. Since this type of divorce is based on the two spouses communicating openly and collaborating on a divorce agreement, it's important that you and your spouse are able to work together amicably. If your marriage has become contentious to the point that the two of you can't communicate and problem-solve, collaborative divorce might not be the right path for you.
- You can count on your spouse to be honest about their finances. Since you and your spouse will be self-reporting your assets and your financial situations, you have to be able to trust that they won't hide anything from you. Collaborative divorce might not work if you have concerns about your spouse misrepresenting their finances.
- You trust your spouse as a co-parent. If you have kids, you and your spouse need to be on the same page about what's right for them and their future. You'll need to be able to work together on a custody arrangement and plan for their future. A collaborative divorce might not be the right choice if you and your spouse have fundamental disagreements about how to raise your kids.
- There's no history of abuse or intimidation in your marriage. There is a possibility that your spouse could pressure you to accept an agreement that isn't in your best interest in a collaborative divorce. As such, it's vital that there is no history of abusive or violent behavior in your relationship.
In short, a collaborative divorce requires a level of trust between you and your spouse that will allow you to work together through this difficult process.
Advantages of Collaborative Divorce
Collaborative divorce requires a lot of work and problem-solving from both spouses, but it has several distinct advantages over traditional divorce:
- It's less expensive. A collaborative divorce can help you minimize the cost of the process, as you will spend less time in court, and you won't need to hire experts like forensic accountants. If you and your spouse are able to work together smoothly, you can minimize the cost of the process.
- You'll get the divorce you want. You and your spouse can decide what you want your divorce to look like and how you want to divide your assets. You have more control over the outcome of the process.
- You and spouse can stay on good terms. A collaborative divorce can help former spouses start their new, separate lives on amicable terms. This should make holidays and family events easier to deal with, since you and your spouse won't have resentment carried over from your divorce.
- You can keep your personal information private. If you take your divorce to court, your financial information will become public as part of the court record. However, in a collaborative divorce, these details are more easily kept private.
For many couples, a collaborative divorce is the best possible way to dissolve a marriage. It can help divorcing couples save money and hassle during a stressful—and often financially difficult—time in their lives. For spouses who are able to work together honestly and without rancor, a collaborative divorce can pave the way for an amicable, cooperative, and even supportive post-marriage relationship. However, it is not for everyone. For spouses who have strong disagreements about how to divide their assets or care for their children, it might not be the right choice.
If you'd like to explore whether collaborative divorce is the right choice for your situation, contact Pennsylvania divorce attorney Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm today. Our office can help you find the right kind of divorce that works for you. Schedule a consultation today to learn more about your options.