Collaborative divorce can be a less acrimonious way of ending marriage

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The Chicago Tribune recently featured an article about Michele Lowrance, author of “The Collaborative Path to a Good Karma Divorce.” Lowrance’s book sets forth some of the reasons why those whose divorce is imminent are choosing the collaborative divorce process over traditional divorce litigation. According to the Tribune, “kinder” and “gentler” ways of going about the process of divorce are once again being talked about in light of Gwyneth Paltrow’s characterization of her breakup with Chris Martin as being a “conscious uncoupling.”

The term “conscious uncoupling” is synonymous with the term “collaborative divorce.” Among the frequently touted benefits of a collaborative divorce is that it can be quicker, cheaper and less combative than divorce litigation. Another benefit of a collaborative divorce is that the process can be used to amicably resolve potentially thorny child custody issues. Obviously, it is a great benefit if children-particularly young children-can be shielded in any way possible from the raw emotions often unleashed in a custody battle.

The Florida Bar Association observes that the collaborative divorce model emphasizes positive negotiation in order to avoid a contentious courtroom battle. Both spouses and their respective attorneys agree in a written contract to negotiate an out-of-court settlement. It has been said that, with the threat of confrontational court litigation removed, divorcing couples have an incentive to cooperate and settle matters as quickly and fairly as possible. If an out-of-court settlement cannot be reached, the attorneys for both spouses will have to withdraw from the matter and new counsel will need to be retained to litigate the case.

Florida judges are generally supportive of collaborative divorce since it takes antagonistic litigation out of the courtroom. This, in turn, keeps civil cases from backlogging and enables the judicial system to run more efficiently. Collaborative divorce can work if the parties approach negotiations positively and are willing to work toward a common goal.

Specifically, collaboration can succeed if the parties are willing to be totally honest, frank and above-board with regard to disclosing their financial records in order to achieve an acceptable division of marital assets. However, attempts at obtaining a collaborative divorce are not always successful.

High-asset divorces

Forbes Magazine published an article wherein the author concluded that the collaborative divorce method sometimes does not tend to work well in divorces where a property division will involve complicated financial situations or high-value assets. It is pointed out that many high net-worth divorces involve businesses and professional practices where it could be “relatively easy” for a spouse to hide income and assets thereby tending to foster a degree of mistrust between the parties. Additionally, in divorces where there are high-value assets, one common stumbling block to a collaborative divorce is if valuation becomes vigorously disputed. If cooperation breaks down over valuation, the effect could seriously jeopardize a collaborative divorce.

Seeking advice

Collaborative divorce is not for everyone. Some couples attempt collaborative divorce and quickly recognize that they are, in reality, too far apart in their post-divorce goals to cooperate sufficiently to make collaborative divorce work. However, in many instances collaborative divorce can make the process of ending a marriage far less antagonistic and stressful. To determine whether collaborative divorce may-or may not-be the right way to approach your divorce, contact the Law Offices of Mark Abzug P.A. who practice collaborative divorce and family law.

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