Family separations are challenging, complicated and costly. However, couples can mitigate the complications and costs through collaboration.
Collaborative divorces involve negotiation rather than trial. It can involve a mediator or a simple negotiation to determine custody of minor children, debt and asset divisions and child and spousal support. This is what couples should know about the process.
Willingness to participate
To pursue the collaboration process successfully, both parties have to stay open to the process. They need to have some common ground on which to begin their negotiations. In addition, the couple should gather any relevant documents, such as tax returns and account statements.
Clarification of desires
Both parties should then determine what they desire from the divorce process. They should consider who should have custody of their minor children based on the children’s best interests. They also need to determine who should take responsibility for what debts and who should receive what assets, including retirement accounts. They should consider alternatives as well.
Next, both parties should meet and discuss their desires. They should write down anything that they agree on and the things they need to negotiate. The couple may take a break at this time to reconsider what they really want from the divorce. For example, one party may be open to trading the family home or taking on more debt if it secures his or her retirement account.
If both parties cannot agree on specific terms, they may also contact a mediator to help them work through their disputes. The mediator views the process from an unbiased position and can offer alternatives that the couple may not have considered.
If everything goes as planned, the couple will sign a settlement agreement that, if fair, the judge will approve, ending the process.