Sessums Black PA has extensive experience in collaborative divorce, a method of alternative dispute resolution in family law. Instead of a traditional court-based divorce, we help our clients come to a settlement quickly and quietly. Collaborative divorce typically takes less time, costs less money, and limits the children’s exposure to the stress of divorce.
In a collaborative divorce:
- Each spouse selects an attorney trained in collaborative law
- Issues are settled in a non-adversarial manner
- The parties rely on lawyers to assist them in reaching a settlement
- The parties act in the children’s best interest to minimize emotional damage
- All communications are constructive and fair
- Neutral experts may be retained to help reach a settlement
- If a settlement cannot be reached, court is still an option, but new lawyers must be selected
Caroline Black Sikorske
Jennifer A. Ficarrotta
Andrew D. Reder
All five attorneys are members of the local and national chapters of The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.
Collaborative divorce has become a more desirable and popular process to dissolve a marriage. Our lawyers are available to answer all of your questions and to explain the differences between alternative dispute resolution and court-based divorce.
IS COLLABORATIVE LAW FOR YOU?
Do you think that putting the proverbial gloves on, getting into the divorce fighting ring and then making the other side “pay” for what they have done to you is the only type of divorce? Perhaps an alternative where both parties can walk away with their dignity, knowing that they have worked towards an amicable common goal and do not “hate each other forever” would be better? Think Collaborative Law.
Collaborative Law is an excellent alternative to the traditional court-based, “fight at all costs” litigation system of divorce. It costs less, takes less time, causes less stress, opens up possibilities and should be considered by every divorcing couple. It is not for everyone. In a Collaborative Law case, each party selects a lawyer of their own choosing. Their attorney must be trained in Collaborative Law, as it requires a different mind-set than traditional lawyering. People trained in Collaborative Law describe it as a paradigm shift away from gladiator style divorce to settlement based divorce.
The parties and their attorneys then sign a Collaborative Law Agreement. The lawyers contractually agree to serve as settlement counsel only. That is to say, the lawyers become contractually barred from ever going to Court in that divorce case. The spouses themselves, of course, can always decide to go to Court and terminate the Collaborative Law process at anytime. This Agreement describes the process that will take place, the fact that both parties must provide full and complete disclosure of all assets and liabilities and that they agree to work amicably and civilly with each other and opposing counsel.
A collaborative divorce case progresses without the difficulty of the Court system. The parties and counsel will meet in a series of sessions at one location which may be attended by a forensic CPA mutually chosen by the parties to assist with their financial issues and possibly have a licensed mental health professional present to assist with their communication skills. The lawyers’ jobs are to facilitate the creation of a broader range of possible settlement alternatives for both parties than would otherwise be available in Court. This process provides higher quality, individualized solutions which both parties find acceptable rather than turning their lives over to a Judge who may or may not understand their needs and desires.
This distribution of risk is a very powerful tool. In the traditional litigation-based divorce, lawyers frequently threaten to go to court as part of the negotiation process. The outcome of that (although not many lawyers will tell you this) is that the client pays more for that outcome and it causes considerably more stress on the client and family. In the collaborative process, the opposite occurs. If settlement efforts fail, both lawyers suddenly find themselves disengaged.
Collaborative Law is well suited to cases where both parties are intelligent, where both parties value active participation in the design of the settlement process itself, and where both lawyers are willing to execute a Collaborative Law Agreement the attorneys must also have talents as facilitators of quality settlements.
In a well-managed collaboration, each spouse is provided the opportunity to play a primary role in the creation, design, and implementation of a quality solution to their marital dissolution disputes in a controlled and emotionally safe process. The alternative traditional court process requires judges to impose their solutions on both parties. Parties who design their own outcome are always better off than the traditional system. The emotional and financial costs of the traditional system will always take its toll on the family’s resources.