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How To Talk with Your Spouse About Collaborative Divorce

So you are interested in a collaborative divorce – in keeping the divorce from becoming a fight in court, and believe it is a process that would work for you and your spouse. A next question is whether your spouse is interested in this collaborative approach also.

You can find more information about Collaborative Divorce by following that link, and by reading through some of the other posts about this topic on this blog. You can also visit the website for the Collaborative Family Law group in Broward County or Collaborative Family Institute in Dade County.

One Option

One first step in talking with your spouse about Collaborative Divorce, is to describe Collaborative Divorce as one option for the two of you to consider. You can give your spouse the web site address for the Collaborative Divorce organization in your county  The web site will have information about collaborative divorce, and the contact information for collaborative divorce professionals in the county. Many attorney websites will contain information about collaborative family law as well.

Staying Out of Court

You and the other spouse can discuss Collaborative Divorce as way to keep the case out of court.  You ultimately have to go in front of the family law Judge for a final hearing, but the final hearing for an uncontested divorce – where the parties have a settlement agreement, and parenting plan if there are children, settling all of the issues in a case, lasts about two (2) minutes – perhaps a little longer if the Judge takes a minute to congratulate the parties on successfully resolving their case.

Keeping Costs Down

You and your spouse can discuss Collaborative Divorce as a way to keep costs down. A collaborative divorce is more expensive than simply writing up an agreement if you and spouse already have worked everything out between the two of you, and more expensive than resolving the case quickly in mediation before filing for divorce; but a collaborative divorce is less expensive than litigating a case in court. Motions, discovery, hearings, a trial are all very expensive. A lot of time goes into each; into preparing for adversarial hearings, depositions etc, and into the telephone calls, email and time you’ll spend talking with your attorney about the adversarial fight you’re in, the plans, strategy, etc. And this is all without placing any dollar value on the time you’ll potentially spend thinking about or being upset about the litigation. In businesses, they’ll talk about the transaction costs of being involved in a legal battle, and there will be costs for you as well, in terms of your time and energy that goes into adversarial litigation. Some people love or want the fight, but if you are looking at Collaborative Divorce as an option, that might not be you.

An Incentive to Make it Work

You and your spouse can discuss that in most circumstances you both will have an incentive to make the collaborative divorce work, to avoid the extra cost and time of needing to turn to the court to litigate. There could be times when one spouse is willing to pay that cost to drag out the process purposefully, by not participating in the collaborative divorce in good faith.  That should become apparent pretty readily, but you should get advice from your attorney regarding any prejudice you may suffer by delays. Sometimes you may want to file a divorce petition at the beginning of the collaborative divorce, which is something that can be worked out as part of the collaborative divorce agreement.

Less Nasty and Combative

You and your spouse can discuss the advantages of participating in a process that would be much less nasty and combative than an adversarial divorce – although a litigated divorce doesn’t necessarily need to be nasty and combative.   Any energy that goes into the conflict, however, isn’t available to go into finding solutions.  I’m fairly certain that energy lost focusing on a fight, and any negative emotions that go along with that, are blocks to finding positive, creative solutions.  I believe it is true that the immediacy and the motivation of going into an adversarial hearing for example, can focus your thinking and lead to coming up with better arguments, but finding the best arguments or narrative for adversarial litigation isn’t necessarily the same as finding the best solution that enables the parties to find a solution and move forward in a positive way.  If people are looking to fight, they’ll usually find a fight; but if people are looking to resolve an issue or conflict, I believe it’s much more likely they’ll find an answer.

An additional issue to consider, is that a collaborative family law process is not just available for divorce; it can be used in other types of family law cases as well — for example, paternity, child support, time-sharing modification, or other family law cases.  There are cases where the approach is not advisable, e.g. if there are safety issues that need to be addressed in court or the court is needed to compel financial disclosure, but a collaborative process can be used as an alternative to filing suit in virtually any type of family law case.  It’s also possible to start litigation, and then decide to put a stop to that, and agree to resolve the case as a collaborative family law case.


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