If you are thinking about using Collaborative Law to get a divorce, that’s great. However, it’s a good idea to think about what your expectations are and it would be very helpful if you discussed them with your attorney. You could be very disappointed if you have unreasonable expectations. Your attorney can help you be successful and feel good about the process with a little more understanding of the process.
Do you have great expectations about Collaborative Divorce? Are you expecting any of the following? These are some common misconceptions.
1. Will it be an easy experience? “Easy” is a little like “fair” — it’s a subjective term and everyone sees it a little differently. In general, you should keep in mind that this is still a divorce, with lots of emotions. You are un-doing years of marriage and many decisions made over the years. Divorce is rarely “easy”, no matter which process is used.
2. Will it be quick? Again, “quick” or fast is relative. No divorce with significant children’s issues or substantial property can be quick. There’s a lot at stake and we all have to be careful to make sure the best results are obtained by everyone. It will also take time to do the paperwork. The more complex the situation, the longer it will take to make sure things are done right.
3. Will it be painless? Remember, this is a divorce. Divorces are rarely painless. We do have an advantage in Collaborative Divorces because we use a neutral therapist and a neutral financial professional who help the process run better and with less conflict than many litigated divorces. There’s bound to be some pain in ending the marriage, but it will generally be much less painful, just not quite painless.
4. Will it be cheap? In a similar vein, a Collaborative Divorce is probably less expensive than many or most litigated cases, but it can still cost a substantial amount. The more complicated the issues, the more meetings and preparation are required. That also means the cost increases. Keep in mind that complicated cases are also definitely more expensive in litigation. Collaborative may not be cheap, but it’s a wise expense.
5. Will you get everything you want? That never happens, regardless of the process. However, in Collaborative Divorces, we do make an effort to focus on what both sides want and need. We do try to obtain as much of those results as possible. We probably come closer to getting what you want than would happen if we just left everything up to a Judge.
6. Will the lawyers handle everything for you? No. We help you determine your goals and needs, and we help you prepare for meetings and discussions. We do some background work with the other professionals. But, the parties have a major role throughout the process and they speak up directly in our meetings. This is not a passive process for the clients. The result is that the parties have much more influence on the final outcome of the case.
7. Can you come out of the divorce with the same standard of living that you experienced while married? That’s not likely in most cases. We usually still have the same size pie to be divided now into two households, rather than supporting just one. We have to be realistic. Fortunately, the neutral financial expert normally helps both parties plan their budgets for their post-divorce lives. That usually helps reduce the impact on day-to-day living.
So why use Collaborative? As you can see, Collaborative Divorce may not be exactly what you expect. Still, people are choosing the process because it is very private, they have more control over the outcome, they can create unusual provisions, it’s less stressful and they can maintain civil relationships with the co-parent of their children. It’s usually much better than the alternative.
Bottom Line with Collaborative Divorce: You can get a good result if you are patient and put in the effort.