Frequently Asked Questions about Collaborative Divorce
What is Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative Divorce is a team approach to divorce that is designed to keep you and your spouse in control and out of court. When you and your spouse choose Collaborative Divorce, you are choosing to work together, with the help of a specially trained group of professionals called a Collaborative Team that will skillfully guide you through the entire divorce process. To engage in the Collaborative Divorce process, you and your spouse must sign a Participation Agreement in which you agree not to initiate adversarial court proceedings against each other.
Is Collaborative Divorce a legally recognized way of getting a divorce?
Yes. In Pennsylvania, Collaborative practice is recognized and governed by The Pennsylvania Collaborative Law Act, codified as 42 Pa.C.S. § 74, which took effect on June 28, 2018. Many other jurisdictions, including Utah, Nevada, Texas, Hawaii, Ohio, the District of Columbia, Washington State, Alabama, and New Jersey have adopted the Uniform Collaborative Law Act. These and similar laws have also been enacted or are pending enactment in several other states. There are also very active Collaborative Divorce communities in California, Florida, Arizona and elsewhere. You can find a complete list of active Collaborative Practice Groups recognized by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) here:
Who is on the Collaborative Team?
A full Collaborative Team typically consists of both spouses and four professionals who have been trained in the Collaborative process. The four professionals include: two Collaborative Attorneys (one representing each spouse), one Financial Neutral, and one Divorce Coach. Sometimes the Team might include additional members, such as a Child Specialist, Special Needs Consultant, Realtor, Mortgage Advisor, or other professional whose brings expertise in a particular area of need for your divorce.
Does my Collaborative Attorney only represent me, or also my spouse?
Each Collaborative Attorney represents only one spouse. You and your Collaborative Attorney have a privileged and confidential attorney-client relationship and your Collaborative Attorney is bound by all the Rules of Professional Conduct. However, unlike in an adversarial process such as litigation, the two Collaborative Attorneys work together, as equal members of the whole Collaborative Team, to foster a peaceful, efficient, constructive resolution to your divorce. The process allows the Collaborative Attorneys to communicate more freely and openly with each other and the rest of the Team by eliminating all formal “Discovery” and relying instead on the free and open exchange of information between spouses. Furthermore, if the Collaborative Process fails, and you decide to engage in adversarial proceedings, you will not be able to continue working with any members of your Collaborative Team, including both Collaborative Attorneys.
How does Collaborative Divorce Compare to Mediation?
Similarities: Both are strictly voluntary, non-adversarial processes designed to help you resolve your divorce outside of court, and both are almost always much faster, more efficient, and less expensive than litigation. In both Collaborative Divorce and Mediation, you (the spouses) retain full control over the outcome instead of turning decisions over to a Judge. Mediators and Collaborative professionals are all trained Peacemakers who can help you explore and understand your interests and alternatives. In addition, both processes share the feature that the professional Peacemakers (the Mediator and the Collaborative Team) cannot represent either you or your spouse in any adversarial proceedings if for any reason you wind up litigating.
Differences: The typical Mediation only includes both spouses and one neutral dispute resolution professional called a Mediator. While the Mediator might be a licensed attorney, he or she must never represent nor advise either spouse as an attorney. While each spouse might retain an attorney to advise them during the Mediation, this is not required and attorney participation in the Mediation is always optional. By contrast, in Collaborative Divorce, each spouse is always represented by an Attorney who will give them legal advice and remain actively involved in the entire process as a member of the Collaborative Team.
For more information about Mediation, please see our Frequently Asked Questions About Mediation.
Is Collaborative Divorce the same as “cooperative divorce”?
“Cooperative divorce” is a colloquial term that means different things to different people. It is not a legally recognized term or process, and – whatever it might mean – it is not the same as Collaborative Divorce. There are no standards or laws defining or governing so-called “cooperative divorce.” When someone uses this term, it is best to ask them what they mean by it.
What are the benefits of Collaborative Divorce?
Because the spouses agree not to engage in adversarial court proceedings, including formal discovery, Collaborative Divorce offers a much more efficient, less expensive, and more constructive approach to divorce than litigation. Because Collaborative Divorce employs a team of specially trained legal, financial, and mental health professionals, you enjoy a peaceful, orderly, well-informed, and highly supportive divorce process that fosters better long-term outcomes for you and your entire family.
How will Collaborative Divorce benefit our children?
Children benefit tremendously when their parents choose a peaceful, efficient, well-informed, divorce process. Collaborative Divorce offers families a path that is less emotionally and financially draining than the adversarial alternatives, and that keeps the health and well-being of the entire family – especially the children – front and center in the process. This process leaves parents with more time, energy, and resources to care for themselves and their children during and after divorce. Some Collaborative Teams even include a Parenting Coach or Child Specialist who can help the parents work through special challenges that may arise with their children during the divorce process.
How do we choose our Collaborative Team?
Typically, Collaborative professionals (lawyers, financial advisors, coaches, etc.) belong to a Collaborative Practice Group that covers a general geographic region. The members of these groups meet and train together throughout the year and form professional relationships with each other over time. Often, whichever Collaborative professional you speak with first will recommend other professionals in their Practice Group as potential members of your Collaborative Team. You and your spouse will choose your own attorneys and the two of you will decide which Financial Neutral and Divorce Coach you would like to have on your Collaborative Team, usually in consultation with your Collaborative Attorneys. Ultimately, the composition of the Team is a Team decision, including what types of professionals you will use and who they will be.
Do we have to use a “full team” for our Collaborative Divorce?
There is no strict requirement for who must be on a Collaborative Team. However, experience has shown that the process works best when, in addition to the two spouses and their Collaborative Attorneys, the Team also includes a Financial Neutral and a Divorce Coach/Mental Health Professional. It is also very important that all the professionals on the Team are trained in Collaborative Divorce, preferably by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) or IACP-approved affiliates. Ultimately, the composition of the Team is a Team decision.
How long will the Collaborative Divorce process take?
Every divorce is unique. Thus, no matter what process you use, how long yours will take will depend on many factors. In general, the Collaborative Divorce process is measured in months, and it is unusual for it to take a whole year. By contrast, it is not unusual for litigation to take more than a year, sometimes several years, to complete.
How much will the Collaborative Divorce process cost?
Again, every divorce is unique. Thus, no matter what process you use, the cost will depend on many factors. Even though you will have several professionals on your Collaborative Team, the process is usually much less expensive than litigation, and – unlike with litigation – you and your spouse will retain a lot of control over the costs and total control over the final divorce agreement. The Collaborative Divorce process is designed to be very efficient and cost-effective. The total cost of full-Team Collaborative Divorce is commonly between $7,500 and $15,000. By contrast, it is not uncommon for divorce litigation fees and costs to range between $25,000 and $150,000.
How can I learn more about Collaborative Divorce?
We encourage you to call us to learn more about Collaborative Divorce.
Our Main Line family law attorneys and mediators can be contacted via email, or please call us at our offices at 215-283-5080.
Our Blue Bell location services Montgomery County & Bucks County.
Our Wayne / King of Prussia location services the Main Line, including all of Delaware County, Chester County, Montgomery County, and Bucks County.