The decision to end a marriage, for whatever reason, can be an emotional and difficult choice. In some cases, disagreements and hurt feelings create the need for a court-involved divorce proceeding. However, a large number of parting couples are able to work out their differences outside of the court system through what is known as a collaborative divorce.
The collaborative divorce process was developed from an idea in which divorcing parties would not go to court and litigate but instead agree to use good-faith efforts and be respectful through negotiation. The goal of collaboration is to develop an effective relationship which enables the individuals to solve problems jointly in order to prevent court involvement.
The process is client-centered, as the clients have the ability to maintain more control of what decisions are made because there is no threat of litigation. The process empowers the individuals involved while still allowing them to benefit from the professional involvement of trained collaborative lawyers and other professionals to aid in the process. Face-to-face meetings encourage open communication oriented toward creating solutions to identified obstacles, which at the conclusion allows the participants to focus on the future rather than the ending of their marriage.
While the collaborative process is guided by the parties, the clients are not left to navigate the negotiations alone. Professionals can and will help them toward a successful conclusion. Both individuals must be represented by an attorney certified in collaborative practice by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP), and that representation must be terminated if anyone initiates any type of court proceeding. This is because that would violate the agreement not to involve the courts. Neither attorney may represent their client in any litigation. The attorney's role is to advise, encourage communication, as well as set an example of behavior.
Other professionals trained by the IACP may be engaged as well during this process. Mental health professionals can help the participants focus on goals and manage the stress of this monumental life change. Financial professionals may counsel and assist in gathering financial data, analyze possible financial options, and aid in the understanding of the financial makeup of the family and concerns about financial situations. A child specialist can keep the process child-focused and ensure that children remain a priority. They also can help the children have the opportunity to express their own emotions and concerns and help discern the best outcomes to assist in planning their lives.
Collaboration can reduce negative consequences of divorce and conflicts. The pledge not to go to court often results in more open and honest communication during the negotiation. When the principles of collaboration are put into practice, children's interests can maintain the highest importance and shield the children from court involvement. A successful collaboration does not ignore the individual's interests but recognizes that the best interest of everyone involved is to come to a peaceful and respectful solution to obstacles and challenges.
Rather than the negative adversarial nature of many litigation divorces, it is possible through collaboration to obtain a divorce in a considerate, constructive way that terminates the marriage while maintaining a respectful relationship between two people. Getting a divorce is often an acrimonious process, and while divorcing couples may never erase the differences that brought them to this point, utilizing a collaborative process can help ensure a more peaceful end to a marriage that enables both parties to better move toward their new lives.
About the Author: Kyle M. Janes
Kyle grew up in Meadville and attended Meadville Area Senior High. He attended college at Allegheny College. Upon graduating from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Kyle returned to Meadville to serve the community where he grew up.
Kyle has a diverse family law practice, including divorce, support, custody, juvenile dependency, adoption, pre-nuptial agreements, protection from abuse, and other domestic relations issues. His compassion for his clients and his knowledge of the law allow him to work on a full range of cases, from simple to complex.
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