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Divorce — Collaborative Style?

This past May, actors Courteney Cox and David Arquette finalized their divorce in a Los Angeles court. According to reports, they had no prenuptial agreement. In 2010, they separated after being married for more than 10 years. The couple officially filed for divorce two years later, initially both without lawyers. They requested joint custody over their daughter, and have publicly pledged to raise their daughter together and to remain friends. The Cox-Arquette divorce provides a public model of a couple that minimized the fighting for the sake of their child and their own relations.

Unlike the Cox-Arquette divorce, these proceedings are often highly contentious. At a minimum, the traditionally adversarial legal system certainly can increase the tension of divorce, and often overwhelms a couple’s interest in having a dignified break-up. Many divorcing couples wonder if it is smart to exhaust time, emotion and money required by a full-scale legal battle. These considerations become paramount when you share children. A large majority of divorce litigation is resolved by settlement before trial.

There is an alternative to adversarial divorce. A growing trend among couples is the use of collaborative divorce. Collaborative divorce takes place without judicial intervention. This option requires a fair amount of candid self-reflection. It may be a good choice only if you and your spouse both value:

  • Problem solving.  You and your spouse share neutral financial consultants (for business and tax issues) and emotional counselors (parenting and divorce consultants). Similar to mediation in its interest-based negotiating, a collaborative divorce differs from a traditional, adversarial break-up because your respective lawyers guide you towards a mutual goal of cooperative resolution.
  • Shared respect. You both agree to protect each other’s confidentiality and to provide complete disclosure of all assets. You both agree to minimize the emotional impact caused by the divorce process upon your children.
  • Commitment.  You agree that your lawyers and consultants must resign if you or your spouse decides to take your case to court. Since most parties do not want to start over from the beginning with brand new advisors, this provision can keep you and your spouse negotiating your outstanding issues.

With less legal dueling, collaborate divorce may also be a lot faster and much less expensive than litigation. If you are interested in exploring the prospect of a collaborative divorce, contact divorce attorney Jennifer T. Miller-Morse for a consultation.

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