- At our first joint meeting, we usually explain the process, make sure everyone understands it and then get a firm commitment from everyone to follow the process. We also discuss the goals and expectations of each party.
- The next step is gathering information. Financial information is gathered by the neutral financial professional (FP). Information about children’s issues, if any, is gathered by the neutral mental health professional (MHP).
- After we have the information to work with, we develop options to consider.
- The final step is to discuss and negotiate to an agreement.
- We always have to remember that we can’t go faster than the slower party is willing to go. There are different levels of emotional readiness for divorce. It is fairly common for one party to have been thinking and planning for the divorce for a long time. That party is over the marriage and often is very anxious to get the divorce over with. On the other hand, the other party may be taken by surprise and may need quite a while to adjust if the first spouse kept everything a secret.
- Sometimes, some preparation is needed to transition out of a marriage. In most Collaborative cases, the parties prepare budgets to help them make financial decisions. That takes some time. A house may need to be sold, refinanced or transferred to one party. It may take a while to divide certain assets. With children, there may need to be planning about how and when to tell them or how to manage the sharing of the parenting post-divorce. One party may need to find a job and/or get spousal support for some period of time.
- There may be other reasons to delay final action on the divorce, including health, family obligations, job obligations, housing issues, etc. Usually things can be wrapped up fairly quickly, but it could take a few months. For someone very anxious to get the divorce over with, that can seem like a lifetime.
Comparison to litigation. In litigation, there are numerous things that can delay progress. Overall, the parties are looking at 9 months or more to reach a final trial in a contested case. This is because the parties typically have to deal with:
- Temporary hearings
- Other hearings
- Preparation of an Inventory and Appraisement
- Scheduling order from the Court
- Mediation deadline just before trial
- Trial date 9 months or more away.
What sometimes happens is one party has been thinking about the divorce for a long time, without telling the other party. When the divorce gets started, the first party is immediately ready for the process to be over because he/she has thought it over and planned everything for months. The other party is surprised and unprepared and needs time to collect his/her thoughts and then begin making plans.
In a Collaborative case, the party who plans ahead feels like the process is moving very slowly. The other party feels the opposite. Gradually, the second party gets up to speed, but it may take a while.
Even if it does seem slow at first, the Collaborative process will almost always move much faster than a litigated divorce.