What is a Collaborative Divorce and How Does it Differ from Traditional Divorces?

The state of Virginia allows for no-fault divorces as well as divorces where fault is established. A collaborative divorce, meanwhile, is not a grounds for divorce but rather a means by which to proceed with a divorce. While traditional divorces essentially put the two divorcing ex-spouses in separate corners like boxers in a ring, a collaborative divorce asks the two adults to collaborate and work together to reach the easiest and calmest end to their marriage possible.

This is not to say that all traditional divorces are inherently contentious and cutthroat because they are not. However, a conventional divorce does not invite both parties into a room to work together nearly every step of the way as a collaborative divorce does.

In a collaborative divorce, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse meet with your individual lawyers. In these initial talks with attorneys, you will likely provide essential information to the legal representatives to help them better understand the finances, the housing, and the family structure situation.

With the guidance of your attorneys, you will then select professionals whose roles will be to help you collaborate. These professionals may include child-family specialists, legal mediators, financial advisors, and estate planners.

Both parties will spell out their goals and objectives by working with professional assistance. Each lawyer may draft a proposal for the ending of the marital union. If children were the result of the marriage, this proposed draft will also likely include a parenting plan. Once both proposed separation agreements are in hand, collaborative divorce mediators will begin the negotiation process and help both parties, with the aim to compromise and meet somewhere in the middle.

If agreements are made, one lawyer will draft the final divorce agreement, which both lawyers will sign and approve. Then, more importantly, the two spouses will review the agreement and make sure that it meets their goals. If it does, then both parties will sign the papers to approve the divorce.

Is Collaborative Divorce Typically Cheaper than a Traditional Divorce?

While we all know that big weddings are expensive, divorces aren’t exactly cheap either. The longer that divorce proceedings continue, the more expensive things can get. It is nearly impossible to offer what could be called the ‘average’ cost of a divorce, as there are so many variables in play.

A collaborative divorce should be notably cheaper than most traditional divorces. Provided that both parties keep things amicable and agreeable, keeping costs relatively low is possible. Please note, however, that an attorney’s legal fees, as well as filing fees, do apply.

What is the Difference Between Collaborative Divorce and Divorce Mediation?

While divorce mediation and collaborative divorce have many similarities, there are also a few key differences.

In mediation, there are often only three key figures in the room: the two divorcing spouses and the mediator. In collaborative divorces, you usually have the spouses and their respective attorneys, sometimes joined by an additional mediator or other collaborative professionals.

Mediators have no power to decide a case. They are simply there to try to keep things fair and aim you both in the right direction. Collaborative divorces similarly keep things out of the courtroom. If, however, the case goes to trial after talks break down, then the attorneys must withdraw.

Are There Any Notable Downsides to Collaborative Divorces?

In ideal circumstances, every adult in a marriage would be open to negotiation and compromise, and there would be no instances of marital discord, violence, or power imbalance. But things are hardly ever ideal.

Collaborative divorce may prove difficult – if not downright impossible – if one partner refuses to cooperate or compromise. Collaboration may prove elusive if one partner is untrustworthy or constantly goes back on their word.

Collaborative divorces will be difficult if one or both partners suffer from a serious mental illness or addiction. And collaborative divorce may be ill-advised if there is a history of domestic violence in the married household.

It is also worth noting that if the marriage resulted in children, the cost of a collaborative divorce might become very expensive should you choose to include professionals like financial advisors and child specialists.

And while we enter into a collaborative divorce with the aim that everything will work out, there exists the possibility that negotiations might stall or fall apart completely. If that happens, you and your divorcing partner will need to find new attorneys.

Schedule a Safe and Secure Case Evaluation with Experienced Divorce Lawyers Today

Collaborative divorce is a more appealing option for many divorcing spouses for many reasons. If you and your soon-to-be ex-partner believe that you can collaborate and compromise during divorce proceedings, then it might be an excellent choice for you to consider. However, as noted, there are numerous reasons why this might not be the right fit for you and your situation.

For legal guidance on collaborative divorces, speak with the experienced legal team of The Law Office of Seth C. Weston. Seasoned trial attorney Seth C. Weston has served clients in and around Roanoke, VA, for over a decade and is trained in collaborative divorce law. Experienced as a criminal defender, a police officer, a U.S. Marine, and a family law attorney, Mr. Weston brings a unique skill set to the table as an advocate for your legal rights.

To discuss your case in more detail, please contact our law firm’s Roanoke office by calling us at (540) 342-5608 to schedule your initial case evaluation today.