Earlier this year, Virginia became the latest state to adopt the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA). This process gives you another way to resolve issues surrounding a separation and divorce other than heading to litigation.
There are several advantages to taking a collaborative approach to divorce. For example, it can reduce conflict and make for a smoother and faster resolution of issues saving you money, not to mention stress. You have the benefit of more open and honest communication not just with your spouse, but with a team of professionals who are experienced in both the psychological and financial impacts of divorce.
You can use the collaborative process to resolve the same issues that would otherwise go to litigation, such as:
- Property division
- Child custody and parenting arrangements
- Payment from one partner to the other such as spousal support and child support
By collaborating, rather than relying on a court to make decisions, you get more say in the outcome. You also get the flexibility to create results that might not be available to you if a judge were to have to make decisions about your case.
How does a collaborative divorce work?
Both spouses need to sign an agreement committing to the process, which includes a commitment not to initiate litigation and go to court. Rather than challenging each other over everything, you work together to resolve matters with the help of your respective attorneys and other professionals. You get to come up with solutions that you are both happy with (or at least both can live with), and once you have that, you document your acceptance and take it to a judge to incorporate into your Order of Divorce. While you need to commit to the process, you can still withdraw at any point if it is not working for you.
Compromise is crucial in a collaborative divorce
Your chances of success depend on your willingness to compromise or think creatively about solutions. If, for example, you want $1,000 a month in child support and your spouse only wants to pay $500, you cannot both get your way. You need to meet somewhere in the middle. However, you also have the opportunity to negotiate for the payment of a child’s extracurricular activities, which is essentially “included” in a child support figure when determined by a court. So in the long run, you might end up with more financial contribution from your spouse than you otherwise would have received.
By taking a collaborative approach to divorce, you can spend your energy looking for solutions rather than thinking about the past problems that led to your marriage ending. This allows you and your spouse to separate with less emotional trauma, conserve financial resources, and focus on the future.