The collaborative process takes place in meetings with the goal of arriving at an agreement, called a separation agreement. With the help of collaborative professionals, the spouses decide how they will divide their marital assets, whether alimony will be paid from one spouse to the other (and if so, how much and for how long), and other divorce-related matters. If the couple has minor children, a postdivorce parenting plan will be developed and child support determined with the use of State child support guidelines.
The Collaborative Team may include not only attorneys, but financial specialists, divorce coaches, and child specialists trained in Collaborative Divorce. Some couples choose to use divorce coaches or financial specialists rather than attorneys as the primary professionals in their negotiations.
Science has proven that a person cannot think rationally or communicate effectively when emotions run high. If this happens during the collaborative divorce process, the wheels of negotiation begin to spin. The collaborative attorneys may choose to have the couple take a break, or to meet separately with their clients. Or they may suggest, and the couple may decide, to retain one or two divorce coaches to help them over the emotional or communication ‘hump’. This can save the couple money because the divorce coach(es) help the couple to move quickly past the sticking point, and to communicate more effectively during negotiations thereafter. If questions arise about the children and/or the parenting plan, the couple may choose to engage a child specialist who advises the couple about the needs and best interests of their children, and helps the couple to develop a post-divorce parenting plan.
When questions arise about dividing assets fairly, the spouses may decide to retain a financial specialist to help them organize and make sense of their financial information and to understand the long-term effects of their decisions. Unlike litigation, in which each spouse may hire a financial specialist to support his/her battle position, the spouses in a collaborative divorce retain only one financial specialist to help them with their agreement.
When the separation agreement is completed and signed, the couple presents it to a judge in court, along with financial affidavits and other required documents prepared during the collaborative divorce process. If the judge determines that the agreement is fair and equitable, it is incorporated into a divorce decree. The parents begin their post-divorce lives knowing that they have succeeded in making their own divorce decisions in the best interests of their children and themselves, rather than having those decisions made for them by a judge who knows little about their lives and their family’s needs.