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Wonder if collaborative divorce will work for you? Let's find out

Gwyneth Paltrow's "conscious uncoupling" may not be a real thing, but she had the right idea. She and her former spouse, Chris Martin, decided to work together to reach a mutually satisfactory settlement and remain amicable for the sake of the children.

This is the eventual goal of collaborative divorce as well. Many people use its name interchangeably with mediation, but the collaborative process differs from mediation in some significant ways.

Let's define it

Collaborative divorce eliminates the "fight and win" atmosphere that contentious and adversarial proceedings in a traditional courtroom divorce encourage. It replaces this atmosphere with one that encourages problem solving and troubleshooting during negotiations. The process also requires both of you to be willing to participate.

Let's look at how it works

The collaborative divorce process follows these basic steps:

  • Each of you hires an attorney who understands the process and provides you with the support you need to proceed.
  • Each of you meets with your respective attorneys to discuss what you expect to achieve through the negotiations. He or she needs to know what you will compromise on and what you will not, along with the least you will accept when it comes to each issue.
  • Then, you participate in meetings involving each of you and your attorneys.
  • Third parties such as accountants, appraisers and child counselors may participate in order to provide you with the best information possible so that you can make the best decisions possible.

If you and the other party fail to reach a resolution on one or more issues, a mediator can join in to help with the negotiations.

Let's look at the benefits

The collaborative divorce process offers you the following benefits:

  • It saves time. A traditional courtroom divorce can take months or longer to complete.
  • It provides you with an informal setting.
  • It encourages the open and honest exchange of information.
  • It saves money. Even after hiring third parties to provide opinions and reports, it's often still cheaper than going to court.
  • You can design a final agreement that works best for each of you and for your family as a whole.
  • You determine how to resolve any disputes that arise post-divorce.

As good as all of this may sound, the process still requires a substantial amount of work from you and your soon-to-be former spouse. The process works best when you both agree to communicate openly and compromise where needed. However, you don't have to give in without expressing your opinion and perhaps offering alternatives with which you both can live. You aren't expected to get along every moment, but you are expected to be willing to move past disagreements in order to come to a resolution.

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Commandments of Family Law

  1. The only truth your children need to know is that you both love them unconditionally, and that this isn't their fault.
  2. Take the high road — everyone wins when you do what's best for your kids.
  3. Negotiate but don't capitulate — if you are being pushed toward something detrimental for your children, stand your ground.
  4. You can only control yourself and how you respond. Don't engage.
  5. Do set up rules and responsibilities. Kids feel better when routine is continued.
  6. You are still their parent — don't be afraid to be one.
  7. Disneyland is in California, not in your home. Don't set up unreasonable expectations.
  8. It is not their job to take care of you. Repeat that to them. Often.
  9. Yelling is for sports — not court. Good lawyers strongly advocate without being disrespectful to opposing parties.
  10. Fair is a place you go to get cheese curds. Aside from that, nothing in life is fair.

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