Many of the documents filed as part of the legal divorce process are available to the public and that can be a concern on many levels. One option then is to use the Collaborative Divorce process because a Collaborative Divorce ensures your privacy.
Wendi and her husband were married for about 22 years. Wendi says they got married for the wrong reasons and it was a difficult relationship from the beginning. When it came to getting divorced, maintaining their privacy was a top concern particularly for her husband who was well-known in the local area. For that reason, they opted to used the Collaborative Divorce process. Here’s Wendi:
A week after I got the note I hired a divorce attorney. Then, we did collaborative divorce, so it wasn’t like I had to give my ex any papers. I just had to give him the list of other collaborative divorce attorneys in town.
He was a well-known person in the hometown, knew all the judges socially and my divorce attorney decided since he was so well-known that collaborative would be the best way to go.
We were surprised my husband agreed but apparently the attorney he picked is well-known and so he knew of him, if he didn’t know him personally. He wanted this really strong, powerful attorney. That’s probably what swayed in that, “OK, we can do collaborative, because I’ll still have this attorney.”
I met with just my attorney for the first time and then we had meetings together my ex and his attorney. We had the meetings more at my attorney’s office, so I would not be alone. She knew that. I could not be alone with him. I just didn’t feel comfortable. We only met, I think, once or twice at his attorney’s office. I actually walked with my attorney to the office and I would just hang out in the paralegal’s office until he came and everybody was in the room and then I came in. I liked it because I could have lattes and eat pastries and it just felt more comfortable than sitting in a cold, sterile courtroom.
It’s something like if you break bread things are calmer and if you can break bread during divorce proceedings, I think people are more relaxed—even my ex-husband. So, he was in a better mood, just with lattes and that type of thing.
I think his attorney did a stellar job in keeping him with the proceedings. And when he knew that the financial planner would be really fair and wouldn’t take sides, I think that helped him feel better too.
I got the attorney in February and we started probably maybe about three weeks later in March. We signed off in November, and filed January 2. Our house hadn’t sold and I said, “I don’t want this to stop until our house sells, because I don’t want it to be just him and me together trying to deal with the situation.” So, we had one or two meetings after our divorce was finalized just with the house, wrapping it up.
I didn’t want to be divorced and still have our major asset not sold. I wanted everything to be wrapped up, no loose ends and that house was a loose end. The financial planner worked with the real estate agent and luckily it got sold in a couple of months—I think by March it was sold. So, then we were completely done about two months after our divorce was finalized.
His attorney held any assets being liquidated in trust. What’s nice about Collaborative, it’s particularly good if you have a stay-at-home mother or father and you have a business or money still coming in. It’s not like a job where you’re working somewhere else and it’s like your money, because the business is both people’s money. After I did the retainer, I did not have to pay anything out of my pocket during the divorce. That made it much easier for me, because I had to go out and find another job during the divorce. All the financial planner’s fees were paid, the lawyer’s fees were paid from the trust account.
For my case it really worked out well.
The Divorce Coach Says
Depending on where you live, there are many more options for getting divorced today than even five years ago.
That means that before you leap into retaining an attorney it’s important to understand your options together with the pros and cons of each. Broadly they would be traditional, Collaborative, mediation, and self-representation but it’s not that black and white and there are cross-overs.
The Collaborative Divorce process is a specific approach using attorneys and other professionals who have been trained in the Collaborative process. Someone saying that they work collaboratively with their opposing counsel is not the same as adhering to the Collaborative process.
One of my interviewees, Kathleen is a vocal advocate of Collaborative Divorce. While she didn’t think it saved her in legal fees, she does credit it for helping her and her ex renegotiate their relationship to allow them to co-parent together.
Wendi mentions another advantage – privacy. This is achieved because the focus of the Collaborative Divorce process is getting parties to reach an agreement without going to trial which would be open to the public. This is also one of the drawbacks to Collaborative Divorce because if you aren’t able to reach an agreement then your attorneys will have to withdraw and you and your STBX have to start over by hiring different attorneys. Now, the threat of having to start over with the associated costs is in itself an incentive to reach an agreement.
Personally, I think Collaborative Divorce would be a good fit for the couple who have significant assets or complex issues, need professional guidance on handling those assets/issues and who are each motivated and able to reach an agreement. Your motivations for reaching an agreement don’t have to be the same, but you both have to want to reach a settlement. When I say “able,” I’m referring to the ability to make a decision, to make a commitment. Some psychological conditions such as addictions or severe depression can impair the decision-making ability to the point where working through a Collaborative Divorce would take much longer and therefore be more expensive than traditional litigation.
Feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss the different options and what might work for your situation.
Wendi Schuller is the author of The Woman’s Holistic Guide to Divorce. Read more about Wendi’s book and follow her blog at her website.
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