Could Minnesota collaborative divorce be right for you?

Collaborative divorce is a way to end your marriage in a spirit of cooperation, without the typical confrontation and adversarial nature.

When some people hear the word "divorce," they are filled with dread. They may envision a heated, protracted legal battle that drags out for months - or even years - and involves former spouses who, by the end of the process, despise one another. Many of us know people who have gone through a "horror story" divorce where every single issue was hotly contested, thousands of dollars in legal fees were spent, and the parties were completely unable to agree upon anything, leaving the entirety of the process in the hands of their attorneys and the family court system.

While it is true that, for some couples, divorce litigation is inevitable because of the deteriorated state of their relationship, this definitely isn't the norm. Drawn-out, litigated divorce proceedings are, relatively rare, thankfully.

In recent years, the legal community and society as a whole have recognized the inherent value in ending a marriage amicably, and legal specialties like collaborative law have evolved to meet that demand. In the family law context, collaborative law can help couples resolve typical divorce-related issues without the need to resort to the adversarial environment of the courtroom. Such issues include:

  • Child custody (including deciding upon custody arrangements and drafting parenting plans)
  • Child support
  • Spousal support/alimony
  • Property division, including traditionally difficult-to-divide assets like the marital home, family-owned or small businesses, retirement/investment accounts and pensions
  • Splits between same-sex couples

The collaborative process

In a collaborative divorce, the parties must agree at the outset to handle their issues without resorting to litigation. They also typically set forth ground rules to handle all interactions, such as treating each other with respect, promising to work together to resolve disputes in a collaborative manner, being committed to openly and honestly disclosing financial and personal information that will help move the process along, hiring outside experts (such as financial planners, mental health professionals or child psychologists) to guide the proceedings as needed, and keeping the lines of communication open in order to reach mutually workable solutions.

By working cooperatively, parties can typically resolve their divorce-related disputes quicker, spend less, walk away from the process more satisfied with the outcome, and maintain an amicable relationship with their child's other parent, something that is vitally important if co-parenting will be a concern moving forward.

It is important to remember that, even if the couple should become "stuck" and unable to reach an agreement on a particular issue, it necessarily doesn't mean that the collaborative process has failed. Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible for the collaborative divorce team to consult with a mediator. A trained mediator may be able to help the couple and their attorneys work through the issue and find a resolution that will allow things to keep moving forward.

Would you like to learn more about the collaborative process, and whether it could be an option for your current or impending Minnesota divorce? For more information about collaborative law in the family arena, contact the skilled attorneys at the Lake Elmo law offices of Coodin and Overson, PLLP.

Keywords: family law, divorce, collaborative divorce, mediation