Getting a divorce does not necessarily mean having to go to court. Fortunately, there are now several options that spouses have to resolve their divorce outside of court, such as a collaborative divorce. Collaborative divorce is a process whereby the parties agree in writing not to litigate their case in a court of law, but rather agree to resolve the marital issues through an open process often involving multiple sessions and meetings between the spouses, their attorneys, and other agreed upon neutrals such as a financial expert, divorce coach, and others helpful to the process of resolution and collaboration.
When spouses agree to end their marriage, a collaborative divorce can be a helpful option to reduce the stress and cost of the divorce process, and provide a path forward in which spouses can strive to co-parent respectfully and effectively. In determining whether a collaborative divorce is right for the situation, individuals should consider several things before they move forward with a collaborative divorce
1. Determine your goals
Collaborative divorce gives spouses the power and flexibility to negotiate the terms of their divorce in a manner and timeline which works for them and is not forced upon them by the court.
Before beginning the process of a collaborative divorce, individuals should take time to consider and outline the goals they wish to accomplish through this process. For example, an individual should evaluate:
· What custody arrangement do they want?
· Would having a custody expert be helpful to the process?
· Would a divorce coach be helpful in managing emotion and unproductive discourse?
· How do they want to divide the marital property?
· Will a financial or valuation expert be needed?
· Will they need financial support after a divorce?
· Should the parties work with a divorce financial planner?
· How will they fulfill their short-term and long-term needs?
It is critical for individuals to consider their own goals, but they must also communicate with their spouse and define the shared goals of the divorce. This is especially important if spouses have children.
2. Gather documents and inventory
Preparation requires proactivity.
Virginia law requires divorcing spouses to divide their marital assets by following equitable distribution guidelines. The division of marital property is often one of the most complex aspects of a divorce, but individuals can facilitate the process if they:
· Collect records of their income or other financial documents;
· Create an inventory of their assets;
· Calculate the debt accumulated during the marriage; and
· Determine what assets require valuation such as a home or business;
As with all legal issues, it is helpful to speak with an attorney to understand this process and Virginia law as they move forward.
3. Do not let emotions control you
This can be one of the most difficult things to do in a divorce.
It does not matter if spouses take the divorce to court or resolve it amicably, it is still an emotionally stressful and life-changing process. While emotions can be helpful, spouses cannot let their emotions dictate their decisions and negotiations. As stated above, this is where a divorce coach could be helpful.
In conclusion, while collaborative divorce is not for everyone, it is an option that should at least be explored and considered.