Collaborative Divorce: It Takes a Village

When a couple wants to avoid a litigated divorce, but feels mediation is not for them, collaborative divorce may be a good solution. Barbara and Eric had many complex issues that needed to be resolved and they decided to engage in a collaborative divorce process.

In a collaborative divorce, each party can retain his or her own attorney and everyone can sit in the same room and negotiate a resolution. The parties have legal representation yet can voice their own concerns and priorities. Neutral experts can also be called upon to provide helpful analysis and opinions. In this case, the collaborative team consisted of Barbara and her attorney, while I represented Eric. We utilized a financial planner and mental health professional. Barbara and Eric’s daughter, Erica, was a special needs child and so we called upon a special needs consultant in the course of our negotiations as well.

The financial planner focused on ways to maximize the parties’ total assets and offered various options tailored to their specific circumstances. Money from social security disability payments could be drawn upon to set up an educational fund for their daughter. While Eric wanted to sell the marital home, Barbara wanted to stay there with her daughter for a few more years. It was suggested that the parties wait to sell their marital home so that they could take advantage of a large tax deduction that would outweigh the benefit of an immediate sale.

A mental health professional met with Eric, who was having trouble negotiating due to the anger and pain caused by Barbara’s extramarital affair. The psychologist was able to help Eric with his emotional pain and explain how it affected his ability to negotiate. This not only helped Eric heal from his wounds of betrayal, but also helped the parties move ahead more efficiently with their divorce.

As Erica was an autistic child who would need financial support and therapeutic services throughout her life, a neutral specialist came to a session to offer an outline of what Erica might need at certain stages of her life. This special needs consultant assisted the parties envision the future in a more concrete and practical way, which helped the parents plan more strategically. The special needs consultant also offered valuable information regarding government benefits that the parties were not aware of.

It took a village, but in the end we were able to reach a final agreement. Barbara and Eric were better prepared to move ahead with their lives legally, financially and emotionally. Even more importantly, the agreement resulted in a win/win situation for not only Barbara and Eric, but for Erica and for their family as a whole.