Many clients who come in to see me for a divorce ask me this very question: “I’ve told my spouse that I want a divorce, but now what do we do?” The answer is that once you have made the decision to get divorced, you need to decide how to proceed. This means that you need to decide what type of divorce process you want.
One option, and the one most known, is the option to file a Petition for Divorce with the Court. This will open a case with the Court and will require the parties to then follow all Court rules, participate in several hearings, and ultimately, a final hearing, if they are not able to settle the issues outside of Court. This process can take well over a year and is likely to be very expensive as a lot of time is wasted on Court rules and procedure instead of on resolving the issues. When discussing divorce options with potential clients, I find that most do not want an ugly Court involved process!
I then explain a better option: a Collaborative Divorce process. This is a completely out of Court process that requires the parties to both have Collaboratively trained lawyers. In addition, the parties will have a Collaboratively trained coach and a Collaboratively trained financial professional. These persons make up the Collaborative team and provide the parties with the legal, emotional and financial guidance and expertise to help them resolve all issues in the divorce, completely out of Court. All of the team professionals go through a 2-day training to become Collaborative professionals, learning how to use the Collaborative model to provide better divorce outcomes. If the parties have already filed for divorce before deciding to use the Collaborative Divorce process, a simple motion will need to be filed with the court to put the case on hold.
Many ask me about the cost of Collaborative Divorce because of all of the professionals required. Although it may seem costly upfront, divorcing parties need to understand that each of the professionals provides a service that is within their specific expertise. In a traditional divorce, the lawyer is wearing all 3 hats. The lawyer is helping to guide the party through a legal process but is also helping to guide the party with their emotional reactions and responses to the divorce and the process and helping to guide the party with their financial decision making. Most lawyers have no background or training in helping parties manage their emotions and no background or training in divorce financial planning!
Most participants in a Collaborative Divorce process find that the many benefits of the process outweigh concerns about the cost. The Collaborative Divorce process helps them to maintain and often strengthen their co-parenting relationship with their spouse, allowing them to be on friendly terms, raising their children together. The agreement reached in the process is likely to carry through without the need to return to Court to modify or enforce the agreement. Any necessary changes to their agreement can be accomplished through a Collaborative process in the future.
If you and your spouse have decided to get divorced, contact a Cathy McKay to find out how the Collaborative Divorce process can work for you.