A Guide to Collaborative Divorce in NYC

“Some people think that it’s holding on that makes one strong; sometimes it’s letting go.”

~ Author unknown

According to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale, divorce is the second most stressful event humans encounter. The top stressor, if you’re wondering, is the death of a spouse.

Ending a marriage is rarely an easy decision, and a contentious divorce process can be tough for everyone involved, especially children. A collaborative divorce, however, takes an alternative approach based on consideration and respect. Divorcing couples that work with a collaborative practice also have the advantage of keeping their personal issues out of the courtroom.

In this guide, you’ll learn the benefits of collaborative divorce in New York and how it works overall.

What is Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative law emerged in the 1990s in response to the pain, frustration, and power imbalance typically associated with traditional divorce.

Collaborative divorce takes a civilized, rational approach to dissolving a marriage. Instead of couples “butting heads,” each party engages in interest-based negotiation. This process uncovers individual goals and interests and finds a common, overlapping ground to help shape the divorce settlement and a way of life moving forward.

Couples engaging in collaborative divorce work with their respective attorneys who  advocate for their interests and needs and negotiate outcomes everyone can live with. And, instead of dealing with judges, motions, and mountains of court filings, collaborative divorces happen entirely outside of the courtroom.

Working with collaborative attorneys can help couples transition out of their marriage in a healthier way and move forward more smoothly to the next part of their lives.

How Does the Collaborative Divorce Process Work?

Whether you’re prepared for an amicable divorce or harboring grief and resentment, collaborative divorce is often preferable because the goal is to make the divorce a winning arrangement for both parties.

Studies have shown that collaborative divorces result in a complete resolution of issues  92% of the time.

The collaborative divorce process is unique because it is characterized by the following:

No courtrooms:  All agreements are reached outside of court, allowing for a smoother process that provides complete privacy for the parties and their children and more control over the outcome.

Team approach: There are more than just attorneys involved in finding a mutually agreeable resolution. A team of professionals will be by your side to support you during the process. The team includes lawyers, mental health professionals, and a neutral financial expert.

Full transparency: There is a free-flowing exchange of information. Each party is encouraged to be open and honest to find a solution that works for everyone.

Mutual benefits: The goal of collaborative divorce is to meet everyone’s needs as much as possible.

Benefits of Collaborative Divorce

Less costly: Instead of battling each other in an attempt to hide information or engage in one-upmanship conflicts, couples save money by cooperating in information exchanges. Fewer conflicts also mean less money spent on attorney fees.

Less contentious: Knowing that you’re both working toward the same goal can ease conflict. Both parties want the same thing – a peaceful divorce with favorable arrangements.

May be faster: Without having to schedule court dates or submit filings, collaborative divorce can be significantly faster than a traditional litigated divorce.

More control: The power imbalance of traditional divorce is eliminated. Neither party has to feel like “David” to the other party’s “Goliath.” Further, a judge will not make the final decision about what your life looks like after divorce – you are.

Privacy: You will not have a judge or the lawyers talking about the details of your family and finances in an open courtroom where people you know, or even members of the press, could be sitting and listening.

Beneficial for children: Divorce can be especially challenging for children to process as their lives have been turned upside down. A collaborative process means that children see mutually agreeable arrangements from their parents, less fighting, and more stability.

Collaborative Divorce Versus Traditional Divorce

Traditional divorce pits the interests of spouses against each other. It’s a battle for resources, custody, and coming out on top at the other party’s expense.

By contrast, collaborative divorce takes a problem-solving, not an adversarial, approach. Here, there are no winners or losers. Instead, collaborative divorce attorneys look for the best possible outcomes where, given the circumstances, everyone wins.

Further, each party speaks for themselves and is fully engaged in the negotiations; the lawyers are not the mouthpiece in the conversations.

Collaborative Divorce Versus Divorce Mediation

In mediation, which is another form of alternative dispute resolution, you are working with a neutral mediator, who may or may not be an attorney to resolve all issues related to your divorce. Depending on your situation, there are pros and cons to this route. One potential downside is that because the mediator is a neutral third party, there is no one giving you legal advice or advocating for your best interests during the negotiations. You must be comfortable, and effective, at advocating for yourself.

With collaborative divorce, each party has its own lawyer advocating for them and supporting them during the negotiations.

How Does Collaborative Divorce Team Approach Work?

Instead of each party’s attorney seeking to find a solution that works best exclusively for their client, a team interested in both of your interests works together to find a solution that everyone can live with.

The team approach involves the following professionals:

Two attorneys: Each party has their own attorney who represents their specific interests and needs.

Mental health professionals: These professionals, which are referred to as Family Specialists in New York, help with emotional roadblocks and keep communication on track and respectful. They can also help the parties create a parenting plan  If there is conflict around the parenting issues, there could be an additional Child Specialist that brings the voice of the child into the room by helping to understand and advocate for them.

Neutral financial professional: This person takes stock of each party’s financial situation and makes projections and recommendations to help support both spouses’ and the children’s needs.

How to Start the Collaborative Divorce Process

When divorce is on the table, the first step is to speak to your spouse about what you hope to achieve from the divorce. If you and your spouse want to move forward with a fair and equitable arrangement that involves mutual respect, transparency, and collaboration, then the next step is to find a collaborative divorce attorney.

Vacca Family Law Group gets to know their clients, concerns, and goals for the future and assists them in crafting solutions to meet their specific needs in a collaborative divorce. To schedule a free introductory call, contact us at (212) 768-1115 or reach out online.