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The Benefits of Collaborative Divorce

Divorce itself can already be an emotionally-draining and demoralizing experience, much more the process to resolve it, specifically, if it ends up getting settled in a family court room. This type of divorce process, called litigated or contested divorce, which is the traditional way of settling divorce and divorce-related issues (which include child custody and visitation rights, child support, spousal support, and division of marital properties, assets and debts), is heard in a courtroom and, therefore, open to the public. Besides the emotional burden it can cause, it can only leave divorcing couples hating one another in the end and probably huge legal fees (court fee, attorney’s fee and expert fee) that need to be settled.

The many inconveniences and negative effects of a litigated divorce process have influenced many other divorcing couples to find alternative ways through which they can settle their divorce and other issues in ways that are faster, much cheaper and more peaceful. Well, good news for them because there are now new methods available in setting divorce and all divorce-related issues faster, peacefully, and without spending as much as one will spend in a court-settled divorce. These methods include Uncontested divorce, Divorce mediation and Collaborative divorce.

Collaborative divorce, particularly, is the newest method of alternative dispute resolution. Under this collaborative divorce process, divorcing couples hire their own lawyers whose job is to assist their respective clients resolve conflicts through the use of cooperative techniques instead of adversarial strategies and litigation (the spouses may also seek the help of a mediator and/or other neutral experts, like an accountant and/or a child custody expert who can assist them in settling all issues at hand). At the outset of the process, the spouses and their lawyers make a commitment to achieving a negotiated outcome. If, however, no settlement is reached, then the “Participation Agreement” entered into by all those involved in the process will require each of the spouses’ lawyers to withdraw from the process. The spouses may then hire new attorneys who will represent them in court (for the adversarial contested divorce process).

According to the law firm Marshall & Taylor PLLC, besides allowing couples seeking a divorce approach their separation as partners willing to work together to reach an amicable agreement, collaborative divorce also allows couples decide on how to handle post-settlement disputes, as well as provides them with other benefits, including:

  • Expediency of the divorce case;
  • More control over the outcome;
  • Less stress and anxiety;
  • Lesser costs compared to the traditional divorce process.

To help make sure that collaboration will succeed, it is important that spouses choose only experienced lawyers who they can trust and whose genuine interest is to help them resolve all issues.

The Issue of Child Custody

One usual cause of disagreement between divorcing couples is child custody, as there are times when both parents do not want to be separated from their child. Gone are the days when child custody was awarded solely to the mother, due to the observance of a practice called maternal preference. This preference was based on the presumption that mother were better equipped with the love and concern necessary in raising children.

Many courts today consider awarding custody of the child to both parents, especially if this will be in the child’s best interest. And this is most probably the decision that a court would arrive at, unless one parent is deemed and proven unfit by the court. Being judged as an unfit parent can be due to many different reasons. A parent may be abusive to the child, a bad influence to the child (can be due to use and dependence to illegal drugs and/or alcohol), exposes the child or allows the child to be exposed to pornographic elements, uses excessive forms of disciplinary acts, is charged or convicted of a crime, and so forth – are reasons why a parent may be called unfit.

Two other important factors considered by the court when deciding who gets child custody are parent’s involvement in the child’s activities and the environment where the parent resides. Spending time with the child and being there when he/she needs the parent most, like in school plays, school meetings and other activities are greatly considered and appreciated by the court.

If the environment can put the child’s health at risk, though, or compromise his/her safety, maybe due to the regularity of crimes in the neighborhood or open use of illegal drugs, then these may affect the court’s decision.

The ill behavior of your (or your ex wife’s) new partner, which may have an unfavorable effect on the child can also keep the court from deciding in favor of the parent under such circumstance. Many other things are considered by the court, including the possible custodian’s health, age and financial opportunities. Some parents look for really good lawyers who can strongly defend their interests and fight for their right in court in order to have the advantage of winning custody of their child.