NJ Family Law: The Option Of Collaborative Divorce
What is Collaborative Divorce in New Jersey?
If you are considering divorce in New Jersey, collaborative divorce is a relatively recent alternative dispute resolution method that provides a new alternative to the traditional adversarial divorce model. While the traditional method – or the other ADR methods of mediation or arbitration – work for many divorcing people, collaborative law takes the novel approach of literally sitting down around a table together with the divorce attorneys and talking things through until all issues are resolved.
The collaborative process focuses on respectful interaction and creative solutions. The divorcing spouses enter into an agreement to keep their settlement negotiations confidential and out of court, and voluntarily pledge to be open and honest about all matters.
While normally one spouse’s lawyer would not talk directly to the other party, in collaborative divorce the process is a conversation among all four people in one room, along with any other neutral professionals the couple decides to engage.
Other professional involvement
For example, the divorcing parties might retain a neutral financial planner to help them set up individual household budgets based on their incomes and assets, and to answer tax-related questions. The expertise and insights of the financial expert can greatly enhance the couple’s ability to a make a smart and fair settlement of financial and property issues, including alimony or spousal maintenance, child support, and property and asset division.
Other neutral professionals a couple might hire to assist in the collaborative process are often in the mental-health field like a parenting consultant who can help work out custody issues in the best interests of the kids, or a divorce coach who facilitates communication and provides emotional support.
In collaborative divorce, part of the bargain is that if the divorcing parties cannot come to an agreement on all issues, the collaborative process will cease and new lawyers must be hired to take the case forward in another divorce process. This gives the couple incentive to try hard to work things out in collaboration so as not to have to start over with new counsel. In addition, the collaborative attorneys have extra reason to bring all of their knowledge and creativity to the table to try to help the couple come to resolution on all issues.
Pros and cons
The collaborative approach is often preferred when a couple wants to keep arguments and negativity to a minimum, sometimes because they are going to have to co-parent their children after the divorce and want to preserve good will in their relationship or lessen the stress the kids will feel.
When the collaborative process works well, it can be more cost effective for the parties. However, if the conflict level is high and they have trouble working through issues together, costs can build fairly quickly, so in assessing whether collaboration is the right method, a person facing divorce should discuss whether family dynamics seem conductive to making collaboration successful in a reasonable time frame.
Collaboration would not be appropriate for a couple with a history of domestic violence. In addition, when a spouse has proven to be dishonest in the past, trust may be an issue in a process that requires openness and truthfulness.
This article only scratches the surface of collaborative divorce. Seek out a New Jersey family law attorney who has been trained in collaborative law and ask him or her to help you assess whether this method might work well for the dissolution of your marriage.