Our office offers Collaborative Divorce services. In a Collaborative Divorce, each of the spouses and their attorneys sign an agreement committing themselves to resolving the issues in the divorce without going to court. The agreement also provides that if either spouse decides to litigate the case in court, both of the attorneys will withdraw from the case and will not be allowed to perform any further services in connection for either spouse. In a Collaborative Divorce, informal meetings with the spouses and their attorneys are used to settle all issues. The parties, NOT a court, make all decisions.

The Collaborative Divorce process involves the assembly of a team of professionals who are all dedicated to achieving an amicable resolution of the divorce without going to court. In addition to the attorneys, the Collaborative Divorce team can include one or more of the following professionals:

Divorce Coach – Each spouse has his/her own mental health professional who functions as a “divorce coach,” assisting the spouses to deal with the emotional issues in the case.

Child Specialist – If needed, a mental health professional focuses on the needs of the children.

Financial Specialist – An expert, such as an accountant or financial planner, who assists the spouses in creating household budgets and dividing the community property.

Other than the Divorce Coach, the professionals in a Collaborative Divorce, such as the Child Specialist, Financial Planner or Accountant, Appraiser or Mental Health Professional are often employed jointly by the spouses, instead of each spouse hiring adversarial and expensive “hired guns.” The professionals work together to cooperatively resolve family conflicts.

A Collaborative Divorce differs from the traditional litigated divorce in several important respects:

The collaborative process focuses on the needs and interests of both spouses and the children.

A Collaborative Divorce can usually be completed in a few months. A typical litigated divorce takes between six and eighteen months to complete, sometimes longer.

A Collaborative Divorce usually costs between one-third and one-half the cost of a litigated divorce

The spouses in a Collaborative Divorce case use joint accountants, mental health consultants, appraisers, and other consultants, instead of hiring their own separately retained experts.

At the end of a Collaborative Divorce the spouses are more likely to retain goodwill and respect, reducing the possibility of post-divorce motions in court.

The feelings and desires of the children are considered throughout the entire process.

Unlike the situation in a divorce mediation, each spouse is supported and represented by their own lawyer, and yet each spouses and his/her lawyer works cooperatively with the other spouse and lawyer in resolving the issues in the divorce.

To determine if a Collaborative Divorce is right for you, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals has created a kit that answers many of the common questions about collaborative divorce. The kit is available here.

In the next few months, I will be presenting public information seminars covering the basics of the collaborative divorce process with other members of the Central Jersey Collaborative Law Group. The presenters will include the typical members of a collaborative divorce team, including attorneys, mental health professionals, child specialists and accountants, all of whom have been trained in the interdisciplinary collaborative approach to divorce. Attendees will receive a broad overview of the collaborative divorce process from the professional presenters, who will offer comparisons to traditional divorce and divorce mediation.

For further information, or to register to attend, call 908-232-7400 and ask for my assistant, Ginny Morrissey.