Maddox & Gerock

703-883-8035

A reputation for being strong advocates, striving to achieve the best possible results for our clients.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative law is not for every family. However, it can be a wonderful solution for many families and can serve to move cases from being "high conflict" to "low conflict."

Collaborative law involves working together with your spouse to reach an outcome that benefits your family as a whole. As opposed to litigation, the goal is not to beat the other side and obtain an individual win, rather it is to find a solution that benefits both parties and the family as a whole.

Most collaborative cases involve any number of outside professionals: 2 attorneys (1 representing each spouse), an independent financial neutral who is available to advise the parties on financial matters and implications of various financial settlements, "coaches" or therapists for each party, and a child therapist. The Collaborative process does not always include all of the listed professionals, but it frequently does.

Collaborative law is not for every family. However, it can be a wonderful solution for many families and can serve to move cases from being "high conflict" to "low conflict."

Collaborative law involves working together with your spouse to reach an outcome that benefits your family as a whole. As opposed to litigation, the goal is not to beat the other side and obtain an individual win, rather it is to find a solution that benefits both parties and the family as a whole.

Most collaborative cases involve any number of outside professionals: 2 attorneys (1 representing each spouse), an independent financial neutral who is available to advise the parties on financial matters and implications of various financial settlements, "coaches" or therapists for each party, and a child therapist. The Collaborative process does not always include all of the listed professionals, but it frequently does.

Many people worry that by agreeing to the collaborative process they will ultimately spend more money on fees than if they pursued the traditional litigation model due to the number of professionals involved. However, this is often not the case inasmuch as litigation can involve substantial discovery, countless preliminary hearings and motions, 2 full trials (custody and equitable distribution trials wherein various third-party experts might testify), which trials may be followed by appeals to the Virginia Court of Appeals, and thereafter occasionally to the Virginia Supreme Court.

Two examples where the involvement of the financial neutral could considerably reduce costs is where the is a marital house and/or marital business at issue. Instead of hiring dueling experts to value the assets, taking requisite depositions and then litigating the matter, the parties work together to agree on the values with the aid of neutral financial expert trained in such valuation.

In addition, instead of each party having to figure out how they will pay their attorney and expert fees on their own, the parties work together to figure out how fees will be paid for the collaborative process (whether through loans, using a marital bank account or selling a marital asset, etc) so that the collaborative process may continue. Once the parties have decided to go the collaborative route, it benefits both parties to ensure that each of them is able to pay their portion of the fees.

Another significant benefit is that where children are involved, a child therapist is often part of the collaborative team. The therapist will meet with the parties and the children to assist the parents in reaching a parenting plan and time sharing schedule which takes the children's needs, development and best interests into consideration.

An additional benefit is the complete confidentiality/privacy over the terms of the divorce. In the traditional litigation model, each party files a Complaint for Divorce (often based on fault) and other pleadings, all of which are public record and which may be accessed by any interested third parties. In the collaborative process, only the professionals working on the case know what he case is about; after the case is settled, the documents filed with the court will all be "no-fault" based. In essence, the parties' "dirty laundry" and financial details will not be shared with the public at large.

One of the biggest benefits of the collaborative process is that there is no one-size-fits-all outcome. Each family is unique, and the family works together to reach a unique nuanced outcome that best serves their family. Such outcomes may not even be options if the case were litigated.

All of that said, there are important potential down sides to be aware of when deciding whether or not to choose the collaborative process. The first is that both sides must agree to proceed with the collaborative process instead of litigation. If both parties initially agree, and one party later changes his/her mind, the entire collaborative process falls apart. If collaboration has to end due to one party no longer wishing to continue with it, both parties are required to find new attorneys in order to proceed with litigation. This is probably the single biggest criticism that people have about collaboration: The requirement that if the collaborative process breaks down, both parties need to hire new, independent counsel to proceed with their case. Based upon a Collaborative Practice training session I attended earlier this year, the statistical rates for the outcome of collaboration are as follows: 4% of people reconcile; 10% of the parties terminate the process and must hire new attorneys, and 86% of the parties reach a binding settlement through collaboration.

If you are interested in pursuing a collaborative divorce as opposed to litigation, you can find a list of professionals trained in collaboration here: http://www.vacollaborativepractice.com/

If you would like more information on the collaborative process, this book comes highly recommended by several collaborative professionals: Collaborative Divorce: The Revolutionary New Way to Restructure Your Family, Resolve Legal Issues, and Move on with Your Life by Pauline H. Tesler & Paggy Thompson.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Need Help? Contact Our Attorneys:

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Privacy Policy

Contact Information

Maddox & Gerock, P.C.
8111 Gatehouse Road
Suite 410
Falls Church, VA 22042
Phone: 703-883-8035
Fax: 703-356-6120
Map and Directions