“Ms. Merideth Nagel and her team minimized the inevitable emotional anguish I suffered as my marriage ended, and truly exhibited the concept of “counselor at law”. At no time did I feel as if I was simply a client, a source of revenue. I was comforted, counseled, supported, encouraged, and empowered throughout the entirety of the divorce process by everyone I encountered.”
Almost everyone knows an individual that has been through the divorce process and it’s no wonder, since nearly half of all marriages are destined to end in divorce or separation. When people imagine divorce, they often think of a tumultuous process that is costly, time-consuming, and sometimes emotionally damaging to not only the individuals trying to separate their lives, but also to their families.
Even though divorce numbers have skyrocketed since the 1960s, the process of divorce has evolved and in recent years, experts have developed a guided method meant to minimize the damage and support separating couples as they attempt to restructure their families. This process is called Collaborative Divorce and it can be a great alternative to traditional litigation if all attempts at reconciling have failed to produce results between partners.
How is Collaborative Divorce different?
Collaborative Divorce is an interest-based negotiation process with a team approach. This collaborative team includes an attorney for each spouse, a neutral mental health professional, and a neutral financial professional. During the collaborative process, the parties focus on interest-based negotiations through a series of team meetings. The end goal is a settlement that will align with the best interests of both spouses and the family as a whole.
Each member of this team is collaboratively trained and supports the process. The attorneys’ goal is to give the spouses a voice to help resolve issues such as timesharing schedule, division of assets and liabilities, alimony, child support, and other family law matters with an emphasis on reducing conflicts between the individuals. The spouses are engaged in the negotiation process and each of the team members work to help them understand the end result.
This team works together to help the clients:
- Focus on the developmental needs of any children as well as explore ideas for parenting plans that minimize the impact the divorce may have on them.
- Explore alternatives for the financial security of both parties by providing a transparent analysis of assets, debts, and budgets.
- Maintain control over the process by keeping it private and civil.
What are the benefits of Collaborative Divorce?
Traditional divorce often involves time-consuming, drawn-out legal battles that can be both costly and detrimental to the family’s future. When a couple has trouble working together to reach a compromise, a judge will be appointed to make long-term, life-changing decisions that one or both parties may be unhappy with.
Through a Collaborative Divorce process, families are protected from the harmful effects of a litigated divorce. The spouses work out their issues together with a team dedicated to constructive problem solving instead of the couple focusing on tearing each other apart. The parties and their attorneys agree that each session will be civil and transparent and, because litigation is not an expected result, each party can feel free to disclose all relevant information with good faith. This allows the couple to decide what is best for their family instead of allowing a judge to do it for them.
Not only does committing to constructive sessions outside of the court save time and money, but it can also help protect a child’s happiness. Since there is a team of professionals dedicated to helping the parties remain cordial, it reduces the likelihood that couples will engage in bitter fighting outside of the sessions as well. The less fighting there is, the smoother the transition can be for their children, and the sooner families can focus on their future.
Does Collaborative Divorce Work?
The Collaborative Divorce method is viable for most couples, even if they are initially caught up in arguments. The focus during the process isn’t about making the individuals get along but, instead, about a commitment to exploring options until an agreeable solution is found that works for both parties and the family as a whole.
The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (or IACP) reported that 86% of Collaborative Divorce matters result in full resolution of all issues and a further 2% of clients ultimately decide to stay in their relationship instead. In Florida alone, it is reported that 92% of Collaborative Divorce cases reach full resolution.
Even when a full resolution was not attainable, substantial progress is often made on parenting issues and finances using this method.
What happens if the Collaborative Divorce process fails?
While we would like to say that the Collaborative Divorce method is right for everyone, it would be an unfair generalization. Efforts made by Collaborative Divorce attorneys may fail in the face of special circumstances and there are certain situations that make traditional litigation or arbitration a more appropriate path for some couples. These are issues like domestic violence, drug or alcohol addiction, serious mental illness, or intentions to hurt the other party emotionally or financially.
If the process fails, the attorneys will withdraw, and the parties will need to retain new representation to begin a traditional litigation case.
If you are facing divorce, we encourage you to consider the Collaborative Divorce process as an alternative to traditional litigation. For more information on this, please contact our office at (352) 394-7408.
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