In a collaborative divorce, both parties typically agree to work toward an agreement on issues such as child custody, child support and the value and division of marital property. Some attorneys fail to serve their client’s interests by promoting collaborative divorce as an effective attempt to decrease the amount of time and conflict involved in the dissolution of your marriage. While this is possible, collaborative divorce may not serve as an appropriate course for all families. Spouses would be well served to consider the potential pitfalls of a collaborative divorce before choosing a divorce strategy.
It Is Not Guaranteed To Be Conflict Free
Collaborative law does not mean that parties will always avoid conflict. Although the objective of collaborative divorce is sometimes touted as a viable alternative to mediation and litigation, people sometimes do not recognize that their interests are not aligned with their spouse’s interests. The cost in a collaborative divorce setting of agreeing to forgo litigation as a means of conflict resolution often deprives a disadvantaged spouse of access to information, which may be vital to enable that person to make an informed decision as to whether a settlement is fair. Additionally, disadvantaged spouses often lose the opportunity to realign bargaining power by waiving rights to ask a court to intervene in a collaborative setting. Since spouses in a collaborative setting expect to work together, negotiations may result in an unfair and costly resolution as compared to results obtained in traditional divorce proceedings.
Do you think you can sit with your spouse and negotiate agreements on issues such as asset division and alimony? Conflict is the root of why many couples seek to dissolve their marriage. The conflict that gives rise to a divorce is not likely to differ from conflict during negotiations in a divorce. For example, issues of anger, narcissism and differences in personality and communication style may persist during negotiations. If there has been conflict in your relationship, collaborative divorce may not be the best solution for you or your family.
Collaborative Divorce Could Waste Time And Money
Many couples consider a collaborative divorce because they believe there is no harm in attempting to do so. An article in the New York Times addressed this issue (New York Times, 4/24/2019, Louise Rafkin). As the article points out, collaborative divorce still requires the payment of fees to attorneys and experts. If a shared agreement is not reached, much of that expense is lost - the process must start again with new representation for both parties. This, says an attorney quoted by the Times, is “a costly do-over.” Therefore, if the chances of reaching a shared agreement are not high, it may not be worth risking the time and expense of this type of divorce.
A settlement that is the product of a collaborative divorce resolution may cost you more than you realize.
As mentioned earlier, patterns and relationships that existed before you decided to dissolve your marriage tend to remain during the course of the divorce proceedings. If your spouse tended to dominate discussions and negotiations in your personal life, or was dishonest, he or she might continue to be that way during your collaborative divorce. That could include hiding assets or misrepresenting financial data, or perhaps just being more forceful with opinions and describing desired outcomes. Likewise, you may devote more and better resources towards financial and other experts in a contested divorce, which can also lead to a better outcome.
While the concept of a collaborative divorce may seem straightforward, there are many factors to consider before you decide whether collaborative divorce is a realistic option for you. Consulting an attorney with diverse experience and with a strong network with experts will help you decide which form of divorce best fits your unique situation.