John Griffith, a San Diego divorce attorney, explains the benefits and pitfalls of collaborative divorce.
SAN DEIGO, CALIFORNIA- Let’s face it. Divorce can be an emotional roller coaster, especially if children are involved. And your wallet can take a severe hit with all of the fees included during the process.
Fortunately, there may be an alternative for you, and one that could potentially save you time, money and heartache. It’s called collaborative divorce. This legal process enables couples to work together with lawyers and, on occasion, other professionals to avoid the uncertain outcome of court proceedings and achieve a settlement both parties can agree on.
Sounds like mediation? Kind of, but it’s not. Traditional mediation often restricts dialogue. Sometimes the divorcing parties speak with a mediator, and then may choose whether to consult separately with their lawyer, which can lead to confusion between the lawyer and the client. Collaborative divorce, however, can include multiple participants. These professionals contribute to the dialogue and create an exchange of ideas to help identify and resolve issues in an open forum.
Collaborative divorce can be appealing to anyone who doesn’t want an ugly battle, as well as save money by not taking the fight to family court. This approach to divorce has many benefits that you may find appealing.
1. It can be settled out of court. Divorces can get really nasty, really quick. Collaborative divorce allows spouses to come up with settlement solutions that ultimately benefit both parties involved. This allows you to have total control of the outcome, and not a judge. Also, you get to have counsel and other professionals help reach a favorable result.
2. The process takes less time than litigation. Traditionally, divorces have been litigated matters, characterized by drawn-out, expensive and combative affairs. At a minimum, it will take approximately three joint team meetings for a collaborative divorce. However, if need be, these meetings can be spread out. So while it might take time, it is significantly shorter than divorce hearings. This is beneficial for couples who have children. Long, drawn-out court battles can negatively affect children.
3. You get to agree to settlement issues based on compromise. Usually, the judge has final say in who gets what and the length of visitations. Collaborative divorce allows you and your spouse to break your case into chunks, such as property, visitation and legal custody. There aren’t any low-blows or hidden agendas. You, your spouse and the team of professionals decide the outcome.
4. It’s less expensive than litigation. Divorce expenses can add up…quickly. There are considerable fees involved in a divorce, such as attorney fees, court costs and if real estate is involved, you’re looking at even higher expenses. On average, collaborative divorces (with mediation) cost approximately $7,500. It’s significantly cheaper than the average $30,000 divorce.
While these aspects may be appealing, there are some common pitfalls to collaborative divorce to keep in mind:
1. If the process fails, attorneys can walk away and leave the clients having to start all over. You and your spouse sign a contract at the beginning stating if either of you decide to go to court, your counsel will walk.
2. During collaborative divorce, you and your spouse may feel pressured to stay in the process due to the risks of losing counsel.
3. Based on the two previously mentioned pitfalls, you could potentially waste funds if the process doesn’t succeed.
Regardless of these pitfalls, collaborative divorce can be an effective and battle-free way to settle your divorce disputes. Besides, you started this journey together happy, it should end that way.
“It’s a good idea to consult a lawyer and discuss your unique situation to determine if litigation, mediation or collaborate divorce will best address your needs,” says San Diego divorce attorney John Griffith.