Some people think Collaborative Divorce is only for the “easy cases”, which is the opposite of reality. It was created to have a safe way to resolve tough cases.
Simple Cases. Initially, people seem more willing to try the Collaborative process in the context of cases that don't have a lot of moving parts. Simple cases, with limited issues, may not need the Collaborative Divorce process.
But, even “simple cases” can be very emotional and difficult. Simple cases can develop big problems. One party may really struggle with the issues while the other party sees everything as a clear, easy choice. It can be difficult decision choosing between using Collaborative Law or just trying to quickly finish an agreement on limited issues. If one party is having trouble, Collaborative might be more efficient, reassuring and safer.
So, how do you know if your divorce is appropriate for Collaborative Divorce?
If there are no kids and very little property, an informal approach would probably work, as long as there are no major fights.
Here are some difficult issues that call for the Collaborative Divorce approach:
There are complicated financial or custody issues. In our view, no case is too complicated for Collaborative Law. In fact, the more complicated a case is, the better it is to use the Collaborative process instead of fighting and using a standardized approach in litigation.
You have a custody conflict. If both parents start out saying they want primary custody, Collaborative would be very helpful. There are many options available and Collaborative is certainly a better option than going through a court custody battle.
You need a special parenting plan for the kids. This might be a unique visitation schedule or special time-sharing arrangements. This often comes up when one or both parents have weird or changing work schedules.
There are conflicts over expenses, activities or educational needs for the children. Collaborative Divorce provides a flexible and creative way to work out agreements that benefit kids while being manageable for the parents.
Post-divorce financial help is needed. There may be a great disparity in income, education or health between the parties. Alimony may be needed and help with education expenses for a spouse may also be needed. Working in Collaborative, the parties can find ways to provide needed support post-divorce in affordable, but beneficial ways for both parties.
There are special financial needs. There may be bills to pay off, a house to be sold, a new house to be purchased right away or assets that are hard to divide. Collaborative Law gives you the time and flexibility to come up with appropriate, customized solutions.
Collaborative Divorce is not for just the easy cases or ones with very few issues. It works well for custody issues and complex property issues. If you are facing a divorce, it is in your best interest to contact a trained Collaborative Law attorney for a consultation so you can decide if the process would work for you. (See our section on how to choose an attorney!)