When a marriage is ending, it does not necessarily mean that the divorce must be a lengthy courtroom process. More and more divorcing couples, attorneys, mental health specialists and financial advisors believe there is another, better way, through Collaborative Practice. The collaborative divorce attorneys at Reuter, Whitish & Evans, S.C., can help you with this process.
What is Collaborative Practice?
Collaborative Practice is a unique, reasonable approach to handling a divorce or other family law matter and is founded on three core principles:
· A written pledge not to take the dispute to court and disqualification of the collaborative team if either party ultimately chooses to break the pledge.
· Open communication between the parties with an honest and good faith exchange of information.
· Negotiations that lead to a mutually acceptable settlement, taking into account the priorities and interests of all family members.
When you engage in the collaborative process, you may use specially trained attorneys, mental health practitioners and financial specialists to maximize the positive outcomes for every member of your family.
It’s a productive process for divorcing couples and those wanting legal separations, annulments, pre-or post-nuptial agreements, the dissolution of non-marital and same-sex relationships, and for paternity cases. The issues addressed in collaborative cases are the same as in traditional litigation: child custody, placement and support, property valuation and division, maintenance (alimony), taxes and insurance.
What Is a Collaborative Practice Team?
Depending upon the needs of the family, the collaborative team may consist of professionals from three separate disciplines: legal, mental health and financial. The professionals work together by providing their respective expertise to help families through their family law matter.
Professionals on the team all follow the core principles and are formally trained in the collaborative process. None of the team members can be involved in any contested court hearing, and all hired professionals will withdraw from the case if it does result in a contested court hearing.
Will my children be involved in the process and, if so, to what extent?
If a child specialist is needed, the specialist will interview the child individually or as a sibling group at least once, and in some cases more often. The children’s involvement in your legal matter is limited to those contacts.
Is a collaborative divorce less expensive than a traditionally litigated one?
It can be. Collaborative divorce eliminates the court appearances and conflicts that are often part of a traditional divorce. It eliminates the need for multiple experts to prepare documents and exhibits for use in court, or to conduct depositions and issue subpoenas. The cost of a collaborative family law case depends upon the level of agreement and communication between you and your spouse. Your collaborative family law professional is the best source of information about fees.
What happens if a settlement cannot be reached?
You and your partner explore other options for settlement, such as mediation, which may allow you to stay within the collaborative process. If either decides to “fight it out in court,” the collaborative lawyers, and other team members, must withdraw. You each hire a new lawyer for the court hearings. The collaborative lawyer transfers the information and assists in transitioning the case to the trial lawyer.
Why is Collaborative Practice better?
Collaborative Practice offers many benefits for clients, including:
· A goal toward resolution. The professionals share your commitment to reaching a resolution acceptable to all. There is no financial or other incentive to act otherwise.
· A team of experts. In addition to attorneys, mental health professionals and financial specialists are available to help address your critical issues.
· More positive relationships. Significantly increase the likelihood that you resolve the dispute while preserving positive relationships with the other party, in-laws, relatives, extended family and mutual friends.
· A healthier environment for children. Research has shown that conflict and hostility between parents, an almost inevitable consequence of court proceedings, is significantly damaging to children.
· Improved communication. Learn communication, negotiation and problem solving skills, which will help you avoid or minimize future conflict, especially if you’re a parent.
· Flexibility. Explore creative solutions to meet your circumstances on both a short and long-term basis.
· Control. Neither party risks an unknown, imposed decision by the court, or feels pressured to make-last minute compromises which they do not endorse nor understand.
· Privacy. Unlike publicly filed motions and open court hearings, the main method of resolution occurs in private meetings.
I am convinced a collaborative divorce is right for me, but I don’t believe my spouse would be a good participant. Can we still have a collaborative divorce?
It depends. Collaborative divorce is not for everyone. It may not be appropriate in all cases. Both parties must be willing and able to participate. Domestic violence and mental illness, for example, pose special challenges. Contact a collaborative professional to discuss your specific concerns.
The family law attorneys at Reuter, Whitish & Evans, S.C., are members of the Wisconsin Family Law Council of Wisconsin. For more information concerning Collaborative Practice, please go to collabdivorce.com. The information provided on this webpage is provided courtesy of the Wisconsin Family Law Council of Wisconsin.
Additional questions you may have specific to your situation can be answered by one of our experienced attorneys. Please note that the information provided on this website is not legal advice, but is provided for information purposes only. For advice specific to your case, please contact our firm for a consultation.