Collaborative Divorce: How to Make Peace Not War
By Attorney Afi Johnson-Parris
Everyone has horror stories of the friend of a friend who went through the messy divorce that was all out war. It’s enough to make you believe that every divorce is a nightmare; however, divorce actually can be different. I don’t want you to think that divorce is completely painless, but there is a way to experience divorce with less pain than the traditional route of publically fighting it out in court.
Collaborative divorce is a way to resolve your divorce issues without going to court. A husband and wife agree, from the outset, to work together to negotiate all of the typical issues of divorce with the help of attorneys that are trained in collaborative law. This agreement not to go to court is committed to writing and signed by the spouses and attorneys. The attorneys also commit to withdraw from the case if the parties later decide to abandon the process and go to court. The spouses meet under the guidance of their attorneys in settlement conferences with a set agenda of the divorce issues to resolve and the information each party will bring to the table to help them come to a decision. The attorneys still provide advice and advocate for their clients, but the key is that their role is not to be adversarial.
Collaborative divorce tackles the same issues as court cases like property division, child custody, and financial support, but the approach has a host of benefits not often found in the courtroom process. Parties maintain control over the progress of the case and are not subject to delays of overloaded court dockets and spiraling legal fees. The process also provides protection for children, privacy and dignity during a very difficult time. For couples who want to resolve the pain and conflict of their marriage without the collateral damage of something akin to a divorce war, Collaborative divorce is a viable alternative that can instead lead to peace.
Article printed in Guilford Woman Magazine, April 2013