Collaboration: a modern alternative for Virginians facing divorce

Collaborative divorce embraces mutual respect and concerted effort to negotiate through difficult issues.

Sometimes marriage just does not work out. The reason does not have to be something dramatic like infidelity or the secret gambling away of a nest egg - a couple may just grow apart or come to realize they are not compatible.

In such a situation, it may not make sense to go through a traditional divorce that is adversarial by nature, especially if there are children to protect. The brainchild of a Minnesota attorney tired of seeing his clients through the difficulty of this process, collaborative divorce instead embraces respect, confidentiality, negotiation and creativity.

Most importantly, collaboration keeps the process of resolving legal issues in divorce out of litigation, where the court process is not private and the judge who has no personal knowledge of the parties may decide issues like spousal support, property division, child custody and more in ways neither spouse is happy with.

The collaborative divorce process

If a couple is considering collaborative divorce, each should meet with his or her divorce attorney to discuss privately whether collaboration is likely to produce good results in the unique circumstances of that family. For example, in certain situations, collaboration may not be a logical choice like when a spouse has exhibited qualities in the past suggesting a capacity to be untruthful, controlling or abusive.

If collaboration is chosen as the preferred method of divorce, the parties will sign a participation agreement agreeing to:

  • Negotiate a settlement agreement through a series of four-way meetings with both spouses and each of their lawyers, as well as neutral professionals (financial, child, parent, communication and so on) if necessary
  • Proceed with respect, uphold confidentiality, act with integrity and honesty, and voluntarily disclose all assets and relevant information
  • Work through impasses in negotiation with the assistance of a professional divorce coach, if necessary
  • Terminate their professional relationships with their collaborative attorneys if the negotiations fall through and hire new legal counsel to represent them if they return to traditional processes

When it goes well, the collaborative process can be less stressful, less costly and faster than traditional divorce. Many say it can be better for children who see and feel less acrimony between their parents, especially if there are years left for the couple to co-parent through custody and visitation. Sometimes the collaborative process can help the couple build a new kind of positive relationship after the end of marriage.

The family law attorneys at Bowen Ten Cardani, PC, represent clients in collaborative and traditional divorces as well as other kinds of legal issues in Richmond, the surrounding counties and throughout the commonwealth of Virginia.