Getting divorced doesn’t need to be a contentious process. It can also be a collaborative process through which the spouses work together to reach an amicable resolution. In fact, there is a specific type of divorce—called a collaborative law divorce—that is designed to help to divorce spouses make informed decisions and avoid the costs of going to court.
A collaborative law divorce is an option for spouses in Arizona who are willing to work together to bring their marriage to an end. In a collaborative law divorce, the spouses and their respective attorneys work with other professionals (such as family counselors, valuation experts, and financial advisors) as necessary to reach an agreement on all aspects of the spouses’ divorce. It can be a highly effective means of resolution for spouses who want to avoid going to court, and who want to make sure they thoroughly consider all of the issues that will impact their (and their children’s) lives in the years to come.
3 Key Elements of a Collaborative Law Divorce in Arizona
There are three key elements of a collaborative law divorce. These elements are:
- Agreement to Commit to the Process. Divorcing spouses begin the collaborative law divorce process by entering into an agreement. This agreement commits both spouses to negotiate in good faith according to the principles of collaborative law. If either spouse breaks this commitment and decides to go to court, then each spouse will be required to retain new divorce litigation counsel.
- Guidance from Qualified Professionals. In addition to working with their respective divorce lawyers, spouses pursuing a collaborative law divorce will also seek guidance from other qualified professionals as necessary. In a collaborative law divorce, the goal is for both spouses to make informed decisions with their (and their children’s) long-term best interests in mind, and this means acknowledging that the spouses might not necessarily have all of the information they need to find desirable solutions on their own.
- Focus on Achieving an Amicable Resolution. Throughout the collaborative law divorce process, the focus should remain on achieving an amicable resolution. Crucially, however, this does not mean that either spouse should be willing to compromise solely for the sake of moving forward. If both spouses are willing to work together in good faith, there will be solutions that adequately satisfy both parties’ reasonable wants and needs—these solutions just need to be found.
As With Any Divorce, a Collaborative Law Divorce Requires Each Spouse to Hire an Attorney
While a collaborative law divorce is an amicable means of resolving divorcing spouses’ differences in good faith, it is still extremely important for each spouse to have his or her own divorce lawyer. Some couples assume that they can hire a single divorce lawyer if they are in agreement that it is time to bring their marriage to an end. However, even if you and your spouse are largely on the same page, you still need to rely on the advice of an attorney who solely has your best interests in mind. An attorney who represents both of you won’t be able to provide the same personalized advice, and this could result in making decisions about things like property division, financial support, and child custody without consideration of all relevant factors.
7 Steps in a Collaborative Law Divorce in Arizona
So, you think you might be interested in pursuing a collaborative law divorce. What can you expect if you move forward? Here is an overview of the seven major steps in the collaborative law divorce process:
1. Enter Into a Participation Agreement
The first step in the process is to enter into an agreement committing to move forward according to the principles of collaborative law. This helps set the stage for the remainder of the process, and it ensures that each spouse has a clear understanding of his or her rights and expectations.
2. Gather Relevant Documentation
When going through any type of divorce, it is necessary for both spouses to collect various forms of documentation. This includes primarily financial and property records—including income statements, account statements, loan statements, mortgages, titles, and deeds.
3. Identify the Issues On the Table
Most divorces involve four main components: (i) property division, (ii) spousal support, (iii) child support, and (iv) child custody. However, within each of these broad areas, there are likely to be numerous issues that require resolution. Understanding where the spouses’ primary differences lie is a key early step in the collaborative law divorce process.
4. Engage Appropriate Qualified Professionals
With a clear understanding of the issues that require resolution, divorcing spouses can then engage appropriate qualified professionals to help guide them toward a mutually agreeable resolution. These professionals are not there to make decisions for the spouses, but rather to provide them with the information and insights they need to make informed decisions on their own.
5. Begin Working Through the Issues at Hand
As the spouses begin gathering information and getting outside advice, they will be able to start whittling away issues and coming to terms. Typically, divorcing spouses will schedule one or more (usually more) collaborative sessions where they will sit down with their attorneys and discuss potential resolutions.
6. Continue Your Efforts as Necessary
While some divorces will be over fairly quickly, others will take more time. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; and, again, neither spouse should feel rushed or decide to compromise simply for the sake of moving on.
7. Enter Into a Final Divorce Settlement Agreement
Finally, once all issues have been resolved, the spouses will enter into a final divorce settlement agreement and submit it for a judge’s approval. Once this is done, their divorce will be over, and they will be able to start their new lives feeling confident in the resolution they achieved.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Phoenix Divorce Attorney
Would you like to know more about the collaborative law divorce process? If so, we invite you to get in touch. To schedule a free consultation with Phoenix divorce attorney Adam Weingart, call 480-542-0099 or request an appointment online today.