A Collaborative Approach to Divorce

Divorce in Virginia

Virginia divorces proceed mostly the same way as any other civil lawsuit. One spouse files a “Complaint” against the other, and a lawsuit is opened in the respective Circuit Court. Both parties are hopefully represented by attorneys who are able to communicate effectively on their client’s behalf. When appropriate, other professionals are added to a divorce attorney’s team to help prepare and present the case. For example, a Virginia divorce lawyer may hire a vocational expert to testify to a spouse’s earning capacity, a psychiatrist to testify about arrangements for custody, or a business valuation expert to offer an opinion about what a business or partnership interest is worth in a divorce proceeding. When this occurs, it is very common for both spouses to hire their own experts or counter-experts. This significantly adds to the time and expense required to complete your divorce in Virginia, the District of Columbia, or anywhere else.

Dynamics of a Collaborative Approach

Collaborative divorce offers a unique, non-confrontational alternative to traditional litigation and mediation. In this case, both parties are represented by their own attorneys. A collaborative divorce team is assembled around the couple and their divorce attorneys, rather than pitted against each other from their respective side. A typical collaborative divorce team consists of two attorneys, a child specialist (when children are involved), a financial planner, a mental health professional, and a divorce coach; more or less professionals can be hired as needed.

Figures of people on puzzle pieces

Reaching an Amicable Solution

You may wonder how adding more professionals can make an already complex divorce process easier and less confrontational. The collaborative divorce process harnesses the skills of these professionals, and those of each divorce lawyer, to work toward an amicable end, in a peaceful fashion. Notably, each divorce lawyer steps out of their traditional advocate role and works in a similar, non-confrontational manner. The result is what some call a “no-court divorce,” a “divorce with dignity,” or a “peaceful divorce.” When executed properly, the collaborative divorce process is all of those things and depending on the circumstances, can be considerably less expensive than traditional litigation.

Process for a Collaborative Divorce

The collaborative divorce process begins with a written contract between all of the above-referenced team members. All the collaborative divorce professionals sign an agreement that describes their intent to keep the case away from litigation and to complete the divorce in the collaborative framework. Though the collaborative divorce process can be abandoned by one or both spouses, it usually means they have to find new attorneys, due to their collaborative divorce attorney’s exposure to confidential information about the other spouse, which would create a conflict of interest.

After the collaborative divorce agreement is signed, the parties begin the process. This usually consists of a series of meetings; some with the entire group, and others with the professionals relevant to particular issues. For example, after a large meeting with all of the collaborative divorce team members present, there may be a series of meetings with only the child specialist, or perhaps a financial planner, depending on how the course is charted.

Conclusion of a Collaborative Divorce

The collaborative divorce process usually results in a lasting agreement that people find they can live with for extended periods of time, meaning they will stay out of court for modifications in the future. The process is amicable and can be a major factor in preserving relationships as they transition from spouses to co-parents, or spouses to friends or acquaintances. This process is not meant for everyone and some cases are too acrimonious for collaborative divorce. There are, of course, ways to divorce amicably in the traditional litigation or divorce mediation model. The only way to determine if it is the right direction for you to take, is seeking the advice of a collaborative divorce lawyer and then make an informed decision.

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