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A NEW WAY TO PART WAYS: COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE

Everyone knows someone who has gone through a divorce and most would say it was not a pleasant experience. It does not have to be. What if the spouses, with the assistance of two collaboratively trained lawyers, were empowered to settle their divorce out of court creating an outcome that they both walk away feeling okay about rather than a judge telling them what they are getting? Well, it is a possibility now.

Collaborative Law is a relatively new area of law which has been primarily used in Family Law cases but is gaining steam in other areas of law like Employment Law, Estate Planning and Civil Litigation.

What is the "Collaborative Process?" The Collaborative Process focuses on the needs and goals of the clients and the preservation of relationships among family members or business associates. This can work quite well in divorce situations where the spouses do not wish to battle it out in court, as they recognize not only the potential financial consequences of doing so but the emotional toll litigation can take on a person. Parties who participate in the Process are typically interested in preserving the relationship with their spouse in the future if they have children together or a close knit family so that they are able to effectively co-parent their children. However, you do not have to have children to participate. In fact, those parties may choose the Process for a variety of other reasons which may include avoiding the game playing that often occurs in litigation and the potentially high legal bills involved in going to court. Rather, settling highly emotional issues such as custody, division of the marital estate and alimony in a calm and respectful environment is preferable.

What is involved in the Process? The first hurdle is that both spouses must retain collaboratively trained attorneys. At the first meeting, both parties and their attorneys sign a Participation Agreement, wherein they all agree to adhere to the principles of Collaborative Law. The most important consideration when signing this Agreement is to understand that should either spouse reach an impasse during the Process, the process would terminate, both attorneys have to withdraw, and the parties must retain new attorneys and proceed to litigation.

In a nutshell, during the process we have a series of meetings at the respective attorneys' offices wherein we gather information, explore settlement options, test consequences and in the end fashion a mutually satisfying binding settlement and obtain a divorce decree. During the process, we establish goals and use interest based negotiations in order to get to a settlement rather than taking positions which can often lead to impasse. 

Another aspect which is attractive to spouses considering the Process is that we use a team approach not only with the parties and their attorneys but we can employ other collaboratively trained professionals such as mental health and financial professionals. A mental health professional serves as a neutral coach for the team by running the meetings among other things. Typically, he/she has already met with each spouse to find out what makes them tick before joining the team meetings, so if tempers flare during a meeting, the coach puts out the fire so the team can continue to have a productive meeting.

Often times, one spouse handles the finances and the other is clueless. The parties can also employ a financial professional who serves as a financial neutral on the team. They can assist the parties in analyzing their overall finances, creating scenarios to show how the marital estate can be divided, or discussing how much support may be required for a dependent spouse. In litigation, typically the parties would each hire their own financial expert to analyze these issues which can be quite costly especially if the expert is required to testify in court.

Overall, the Collaborative Process is an attractive option for handling divorce and other legal matters because people do not want to waste time and money on going to court if they do not have to. Spouses do not want to spend months or years litigating to end up with a result that they are not happy with.

At McMorrow Law in Wexford, we offer options. We can handle a Collaborative Divorce, regular litigation based divorce or mediation.  Our practice also focuses of estate planning, estate administration, guardianships, adoptions and criminal defense. Whatever the issue, whether it is a divorce, estate plan, a guardianship for a special needs adult, we always explain your options in a comfortable environment with no pressure. We take pride in our work striving to return client calls within 24 hours. We do not encourage unnecessary litigation. It often puts things in perspective when you focus on investing in your future instead of your past.

If you or someone you know is facing a divorce, contact the experienced divorce attorneys at McMorrow Law, LLC today at 724-940-0100.

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