As a family law attorney who focuses on collaborative law and divorce mediation, I am passionate about spreading information about out-of-court settlement options. With more than a decade of professional experience in these alternative dispute resolutions methods, I consider it my personal mission and duty to society. While I practice collaborative law throughout the state of North Carolina with locations in Raleigh, Greenville, Beaufort, and Wilmington, I am committed to spreading global awareness.
To explain it simply, during the collaborative divorce process, each spouse hires their own collaborative divorce attorney. Then, with their attorneys, the spouses meet to discuss their divorce process and work through their negotiation. Several meetings follow in a roundtable discussion format. The spouses have three sets of tasks that they need to complete as part of a legal separation or divorce which includes the parenting plan (if they have children), financial plan, and relational plan. After the decisions associated with each of these plans have been made, it is the responsibility of the attorneys to pull them together into legal form and make certain the couple’s agreements are enforceable and will receive the support of the court system. You can read more on the basics of collaborative divorce with AN|R Law by clicking here.
While I am dedicated to spreading awareness and sharing information about collaborative law, I also spend a lot of time clearing up fallacies about this type of proceeding. A fellow attorney, Susan Guthrie, invited me on her podcast, The Divorce and Beyond Podcast, to discuss this topic. We talked about how there is a misconception across the nation about the ideal couple for a collaborative divorce… and how there really isn’t a so-called “ideal couple” for collaborative. You can listen to that podcast episode by clicking here or watch it on YouTube by clicking here.
To be honest, I can understand why the thought of a peaceful divorce may seem impossible. I’m a child of divorce, so I get it. My parents’ relationship and subsequent divorce, were contentious and riddled with conflict. They fought and argued over just about everything. I know many other divorcing spouses who can relate. Despite an inability to agree, the collaborative law divorce process can still work. I’ve gone on to represent clients in these exact same situations and they achieve a productive and successful collaborative divorce.
It is possible and here’s why:
The one and only thing a couple has to agree on to make a collaborative divorce work is to agree that they both want a collaborative divorce.
Your divorce process doesn’t have to start in harmony in order for it to end in harmony. It just has to start with an agreement that both spouses commit to the collaborative law method. That means it is completely possible for a divorce couple to argue over their relationship, children, finances, house, lifestyle, etc. and still be great candidates for collaborative law.
During the first four-way meeting with the two spouses and each of their attorneys, there is an actual agreement that is reviewed and signed by all parties involved. Prior to starting a collaborative divorce, this is proof that the only thing spouses must be on the same page with is the agreement to follow the collaborative process. We call this the Collaborative Commitment Agreement, which is also known as the Pledge. The clients and their attorneys will commit to adhering to the principles stated in the agreement which includes:
- Full disclosure of all information relevant to decisions which need to be made
- Problem-solving without misrepresentations, bluffs, threats, or coercive negotiation tactics
- The use of neutral experts such as financial specialists, child specialists, and additional coaches
- Making their best effort to keep their children out of any conflicts the clients may have
- Keeping the process confidential, which means not to use statements made in the process in any legal proceeding
- Limiting the representation of the attorneys to the collaborative divorce process. This means the attorneys agree never to litigate against either partner in any family dispute in the future.
In order to explain this better, I’d like to share what exactly a couple commits to when they agree to follow through with a collaborative divorce. They become committed to resolving their dispute, avoiding unnecessary drama, committing to co-parenting, and saving time and money.
Since a collaborative divorce proceeding is a type of alternative dispute resolution. That means it is similar to processes like mediation, settlement, and negotiation. In this situation, the marriage is seen as a dispute and we work together to resolve it. Collaborative is known to work with attorneys while keeping spouses, and any children they may have, out of a courtroom.
Avoiding Unnecessary Drama
The collaborative process is widely known as a divorce proceeding that avoids unnecessary conflict. But don’t be fooled… while the divorce may end with peaceful resolutions, it doesn’t necessarily have to start that way. With collaborative law, the drama is left at the door. In addition, collaborative divorce helps maintain relationships with extended families and social networks, and allows for a dignified end to a marriage.
Committing to Co-Parenting
Collaborative divorce enhances and encourages divorcing couples to be effective, loving co-parents and reduces the stress of divorce on children. In fact, co-parenting is included in the tasks as part of the creation of the parenting plan. Collaborative embodies divorce without destruction to make a difference for the families involved.
Saving Time and Money
With the standard collaborative divorce process, there is a timeline to follow. This keeps spouses and their attorneys on track for agreement which saves time. The collaborative divorce process is also typically a less costly alternative to court-annexed divorce mediation or litigation.
It is my strong belief that spouses can divorce cordially through the collaborative divorce process and go on to each live a peaceful, happy life. This is even true as they continue co-parenting and following their parenting agreements. While there are misconceptions about this type of proceeding, I am on a mission to expose the truth. It is quite possible that there are myths about this type of divorce process because collaborative law is a newer type of divorce proceeding across the nation. In fact, it is the newest type of proceeding in the state of North Carolina. According to the North Carolina Collaborative Attorney Network (NC-CAN), which I co-founded in 2017, collaborative law first came to North Carolina in the late 1990s. It wasn’t recognized by the state legislature though until 2003. That’s when lawmakers passed a bill recognizing collaborative law as an alternative to court divorce and defining the key components of the process. I’ve been practicing collaborative family law for my entire career. In fact, I was the first practicing collaborative law attorney in Pitt County.
With my work throughout North Carolina, across the nation, and around the globe, I hope that collaborative law will become recognized as the best way to divorce. Due to its respectful communication practices and efficiencies, I know that this type of proceeding can truly change divorce culture while addressing the way its handled. There is a better way. And, again, the only thing that a divorcing couple needs to agree on is that they both want a collaborative divorce. Their attorneys and specialists will guide them from there to reach a negotiated and peaceful resolution which allows them to continue on with their lives in harmony.
How AN|R Law Can Help
If you and your spouse are considering separation or divorce, I’m here to help. With three locations across North Carolina in Greenville, Beaufort, and Raleigh, AN|R Law is committed to serving spouses across the state. Reach out to our legal team to discuss how alternative dispute resolution methods can benefit you. Click here to read more about my practice and healthy methods of divorce including collaborative, mediation, and settlement.