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A Peek Inside a Collaborative Divorce

When a couple has reached an impasse and a decision is made to divorce, the path through the collaborative process will be much different than the typical divorce.  The very first step, the decision to proceed collaboratively, is based on a desire to work together constructively for everyone’s long-term benefit rather than engaging in expensive, time-consuming warfare.

A spouse’s initial contact with S.C. Collaborative Divorce Group is designed to provide additional information about collaborative divorce and help them determine if this would be the best option for their family and particular circumstances.

When one or both parties decide that this may be the best approach for them, the party schedules an initial consultation with our legal professional.  Also intended as an information gathering session, the attorney discusses a variety of legal issues involved in divorce including matters of separation, custody, support, and financial circumstances.  The attorney will gain an understanding of the spouse’s goals, concerns, and the family dynamics which will impact the collaborative effort and resolution of issues.  We can assist the other spouse by providing referrals to other attorneys skilled in collaborative divorce to represent them.

The attorneys and clients schedule the first collaborative team meeting.  The purpose of this meeting is for the parties to identify the matters to be resolved in the divorce, discuss priorities, and establish guidelines for proceeding through the divorce respectfully and in the best interests of each member of the family.  In addition to the spouses and their attorneys, this team meeting often includes our family therapist and financial expert.

Divorce is typically an emotionally charged time for the couple and especially for children. Emotions such as anger, fear, shock, mistrust, jealousy, sadness and feeling overwhelmed can delay or block progress and resolution of the issues. Family therapists can help divorcing clients keep emotions from making the process more lengthy, difficult and unproductive.  The role of this professional is to help clients focus on constructive communication and flexibility that will lead to an efficient and satisfactory solution. They can also work with the couple to develop an optimal co-parenting plan or assist with locating other therapists to provide additional help for the family.

Every family has unique financial issues which can present significant and complex challenges in divorce.  Our financial professional works with the couple in a neutral role to ensure that the financial circumstances are transparent and accurate. The role of the financial expert is to help the couple make rational decisions based on facts and reason rather than emotion and to evaluate both short and long term impacts of settlement options on each member of the family.

One key outgrowth of the first team meeting is the development by the professionals of a personalized progress plan for the couple.  This is a unique, family-specific step-by-step road map to reaching a final agreement.  It helps the couple visualize and understand the small, incremental steps to a successful conclusion.  The premise is that good decision making is the result of complete information and a clear pathway to the end.  It is a valuable tool for the couple to retain control of their divorce and work through the issues efficiently and productively as opposed to waging a lengthy and expensive war from separate camps and never feeling in control of the time frame or outcome.  We believe that providing the couple with more information, transparency, and control while facilitating negotiation eliminates a great amount of the anxiety so prevalent in divorces.

Based on the family’s unique circumstances and goals the professionals work together with the couple to implement their plan by openly discussing and evaluating various options, resolving differences, and negotiating a settlement.  Upon reaching a mutually agreeable resolution, the attorneys prepare the written settlement agreement for the couple to review.  When the couple is satisfied with the agreement, the attorneys prepare the final document which is then filed with the family court as part of the divorce decree.