What Does Collaborative Divorce Entail?
You and your spouse could be considering divorce but still get along well enough to agree on property division, child custody, and other major decisions. In that case, collaborative divorce may work well for you.
Alabama law recognizes collaborative divorce. This process helps divorcing couples calmly and respectfully negotiate their divorce with help from an Alabama divorce lawyer representing each spouse, a collaborative divorce-trained coach, and sometimes expert witnesses.
For a free legal consultation, call (256) 859-7277
Understanding Collaborative Divorce
Alabama allows partners to solve certain family law issues through collaborative law. A collaborative divorce aims to resolve your family law concerns mutually and through respectful negotiation. This process can help couples avoid becoming combative or aggressively pursuing assets. In general, collaboration can offer a better way to dissolve a marriage.
A collaborative divorce allows the parties to avoid litigation. In addition, couples could feel more content with the outcome through collaboration than in a traditional litigated case.
Alabama applies certain rules to collaborative divorce under Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA).
In a collaborative divorce:
- The process begins when each spouse signs an agreement for collaborative law participation.
- Each spouse hires an attorney well-versed in collaborative divorce.
- To navigate this process, the couple can hire a coach—or sometimes multiple coaches.
Again, your lawyer and any divorce coach you hire should have the training and knowledge necessary to manage a collaborative divorce. The law requires your coach and attorneys to understand this process before helping you. Also, it will make the entire process work better. Finally, seeking a team who handles collaborative divorce regularly will go a long way for your case.
Experienced coaches will know when the case needs additional expert input, how partners often get stuck during the process, and how to help spouses reach agreements despite their differences. The coach, with help from the lawyers representing and protecting the rights of each partner, makes this challenging time less stressful.
Navigating the Alabama divorce process does not have to feel adversarial. Collaborative divorce may offer a good option for you and your partner.
Collaborative Divorce Focuses on Negotiating Mutually Beneficial Agreements
Of course, no one wants to go through a divorce. However, collaborative divorce could offer a better alternative than fighting it out in a courtroom and airing your family’s dirty laundry.
Several benefits could result from collaborative divorce as opposed to litigating your separation and marriage dissolution. These benefits include:
It May Cost Less
Collaborative divorce does require paying attorneys, coaches, and experts for their assistance. However, collaborative divorce may still prove more affordable than a litigated divorce. The process may also resolve faster, cutting attorney’s fees and other related expenses.
If you and your partner can reach a compromise on all legal matters without mediators, coaches, or judges, this can prove the cheapest option of all. An attorney can write your agreement and file your uncontested divorce petition. Then, they can ask the judge to sign it, which usually happens after the applicable 30-day waiting period under Alabama law. However, many people simply cannot reach agreements on their own.
When the couple cannot create a proposed plan for their divorce, litigation may prove necessary. Litigation takes longer and usually costs more than any method of divorce. However, through a court order, litigation can resolve disputes related to child custody, property division, and other legal issues.
It Gives the Spouses More Control Over the Outcome
The judge issues the final decree and all related court orders when a couple litigates their divorce. This determines many aspects of the lives of both parties from that day forward. The outcome is completely out of the hands of either the plaintiff or defendant. Once the judge issues a ruling after a litigated divorce, the order is final.
The judge could issue orders based on the initial petition filed by the plaintiff. They could use the response filed by the defendant. They might mix some parts of each plan. They may even create their own version of a parenting plan, instructions for property division, and more.
In a collaborative divorce, the couple retains full control of the outcome. They can negotiate and discuss to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. They can arrange a trade-off with the other for something they would rather receive.
It Protects the Relationship for a Better Future
Divorce naturally causes rifts between partners. Rarely can couples navigate this process from start to finish and never feel animosity, frustration, or anger with their partner. Litigating a divorce only exacerbates this. Some couples finish their divorce feeling more distrustful, resentful, and argumentative than when they started.
You don’t have to have this experience. In addition to dissolving the marriage, the goal of collaborative divorce involves preparing the couple to continue to work together for their children, shared business interests, or future relationship.
By negotiating and working together on your divorce, you could begin rebuilding a new relationship that allows you to compromise and reach agreements easier in the future. This offers a major benefit if you need to see one another regularly because of your children or a shared business.
Click to contact our divorce lawyers today
Collaborative Divorce Requires You to Agree on Several Factors
When a judge issues orders and a divorce decree, those orders address various legal matters. During a collaborative divorce, you will need to work through several issues to reach compromises about what each of you wants.
For this reason, collaborative divorce often works easier for those with few assets and debts, no children, and who both work outside the home. However, it can work even with complex, high-asset, or professional divorces.
Some of the legal issues you must collaboratively resolve with your partner include:
Couples frequently have difficulty compromising on property division. However, the support of an attorney, collaborative divorce coach, experts, and others could help.
Your attorney can work to identify all the debts and assets you and your spouse own. This could range from retirement accounts to the family home, cars, expensive collections of wine, guitars, or other items. Not all assets you own are shared marital property, however. Your private property may include inherited items, assets purchased before marriage, and other property.
Alabama requires equitable distribution of marital property under Alabama law. The judge will not approve an order where one partner receives all the assets or the debt. The split of property, accounts, and other assets may not come out to a 50/50 split, but the divorce should split it fairly. Your attorneys and the coach can ensure this during a collaborative divorce.
Alimony (Spousal Support)
Alimony is a regular payment from one former spouse to the other. Alabama law dictates when a spouse becomes eligible for alimony under Alabama law. Generally, the courts rarely use long-term alimony unless the marriage lasted decades or one partner sacrificed their career for their spouse and children.
However, you or your spouse could get interim and short-term alimony. For example, your spouse might agree to pay you for two years while you return to school and finish your degree. With collaborative divorce, these agreements could be as simple as asking and negotiating a price and length of time.
Child Custody and Visitation
Some of the most difficult agreements to make often involve child custody and visitation. Under Alabama law, the state prefers that children split time between their parents. They want the parents to share in decision-making duties (legal custody) and regularly share time with their children (physical custody).
To this end, the decisions made during collaborative divorce coaching should solve all questions about where your child will live, who will provide care, and who has a legal right to make major decisions about education, medical care, and more. Collaborative divorce can also set up both parents to work together constructively for their child’s care following the divorce process.
Your coach and attorneys can walk you through the process of collaboration to determine:
- If you will share legal custody and decision-making for your child
- Who will receive physical custody
- When the child sees the other parent
- How you will handle holidays and school breaks
How Does the Collaborative Divorce Process Work?
Collaborative divorce offers a fairly new way of navigating the divorce process in Alabama. Unfortunately, many people do not understand it. They may worry it would not prove effective for them. Some have questions and do not know who to ask. Perhaps it led you to this blog you are reading now. Understanding this process may help you decide if you should seek a collaborative divorce.
Who Is Involved in a Collaborative Divorce?
Each party hires an attorney familiar with the collaborative divorce process. Their attorney represents their best interests, protects their rights, and helps them navigate the process. Attorneys often have familiarity with the local courts, too.
The couple hires a collaborative divorce coach—often a psychologist such as a family therapist. They do not work to help the couple reconcile. Instead, they help them divorce using many constructive approaches. They provide information, support, and compassion while helping the spouses communicate openly and honestly. Some cases may involve one coach for each spouse.
Lastly, these cases often rely on input from experts to help the spouses reach decisions and understand their options based on the facts. This could include a child psychologist, financial analyst, and others.
How Does This Process Work?
Collaborative divorce requires the spouses to reach agreements on several topics. This sometimes takes one or two meetings. It could also take many, many more—it depends on the circumstances. While the attorneys discuss the options with their clients and help them put a proposal in place, the coach facilitates two-way communication between the spouses about what they want.
Throughout this process, the lawyers may gather evidence the individuals will discuss and call in experts for more information. Negotiations may occur with the coach as a go-between, or everyone may meet in a conference room and freely exchange ideas.
What Happens Next?
Once the spouses agree on all the necessary factors, one attorney can write an agreement, and both parties will sign off. Then, the lawyers move it forward through the courts, and the judge reviews it for approval.
What if I Change My Mind About Using Collaborative Divorce?
Some people worry they will agree to a collaborative divorce and then realize they do not want to work with their soon-to-be ex or that the relationship does not function well enough for collaboration to resolve a divorce successfully. You can stop a collaborative divorce even if you supported the concept and hoped to reach a conclusion through the process.
However, strict rules apply to collaborative divorces. These rules create the best possible environment for successful collaboration and cooperation. When you decide to use collaborative divorce, your coach, attorneys, and the hired experts want you to succeed.
Because of these rules, you must hire a new attorney if you change your mind about using a collaborative divorce. Your attorney in collaborative meetings cannot represent you during a litigated divorce. You must hire another lawyer for the next part of your case if you alter your course after starting a collaborative divorce.
Reach out to a Lawyer’s Team to Learn More About Collaborative Divorce Today
If you believe collaborative divorce may present a good option for you and your spouse, an Alabama divorce lawyer can help. Most family law firms provide a no-obligation evaluation to help you understand the process and determine if this offers a good fit for you. Even if you are not yet sure if collaborative divorce could work for you, contacting a family law firm can help you determine its possible benefits.
You don’t have to deal with your divorce process alone. Your attorney can guide you through your entire divorce, including reaching all necessary agreements and protecting your rights from start to finish.