There are many different processes available to end a marriage. You can immediately file a divorce action and allow a Judge to make the critical decisions affecting you, your spouse and your children that arise and have to be resolved when a marriage ends. Or, you and your spouse can try to resolve all of the issues yourselves either by hiring attorneys to negotiate on your behalf; hiring a Mediator to assist the two of you in coming to an agreement; or by hiring qualified attorneys and engaging in the Collaborative Process.
Cincinnati Divorce Attorney, John Heilbrun, believes that for most people who are facing the end their marriage, the Collaborative Process is the best way to proceed, and the process that is likely to cause the least amount of additional damage to the relationship. This latter factor is extremely important for many reasons, but primarily for the benefit of the parties’ children.
What is collaborative process?
The Collaborative Process (sometimes called Collaborative Divorce) is a process that more and more people are using to help them work through and resolve the issues that arise when a marriage is going to end. Those issues include how the parties will allocate their rights and responsibilities involving their minor children once they are no longer married and residing together; how they are going to divide their assets and liabilities; and any ongoing responsibilities either spouse may have to provide support for the minor children or for the other spouse after the end of the marriage.
To engage in the Collaborative Process, both spouses hire attorneys who are specially trained in the Collaborative Process, and they work together with their attorneys, and sometimes other trained professionals such as family relations specialists and financial specialists, to assist them in coming to mutual agreements on all of these issues.
The Collaborative Process requires that both spouses sign a written agreement pursuant to which they agree that they shall work together, in conjunction with their respective attorneys, to reach an agreed resolution of all issues that need to be resolved as a consequence of the fact that their marriage is ending. This written agreement details the obligations of both spouses to work together, and to make a full and complete disclosure to the other of any and all assets, liabilities and other relevant information that needs to be disclosed and shared in order for both parties to knowingly and voluntarily, come to a mutual agreement on all issues. The written agreement further provides that in the event that, for whatever reason, the Collaborative Process fails, neither of the attorneys who have represented the spouses in the Collaborative Process can thereafter represent their client in any adversarial proceeding involving the other spouse. This would include representation in connection with a divorce or similar type of adversarial proceeding that either spouse may subsequently file with the Court in the event that the Collaborative Process was not successful and did not result in the execution of a final written agreement between the spouses.
At the first meeting between the spouses and their attorneys, the parties will be asked to identify their respective goals and interests. In addition, all relevant information concerning the parties’ respective incomes, assets, liabilities and issues related to their minor children shall be identified. After there has been a full and complete disclosure and sharing of all relevant information and documentation, the parties will work together, jointly with their attorneys, to mutually agree upon the manner in which they are going to resolve all of the issues arising out of the decision to end the marriage. With the help of their attorneys, both spouses will consider a variety of options that may exist for resolving these issues, and ultimately agree upon the options that will work best for the spouses and their minor children.
After the parties have reached an agreement on all of the issues, the attorneys will prepare the appropriate written agreements that will set forth those agreements, be signed by both spouses and ultimately incorporated into a final Order that will be entered by the Court ending the parties’ marriage.
Advantages of the collaborative process
The Collaborative Process offers many advantages over other procedures that exist for the resolution of the issues that arise when a marriage is ending. Among those advantages are the following:
- By requiring full and complete disclosure, the Collaborative Process assures that both parties will have full knowledge of all relevant information;
- The parties are able to address and agree upon the manner in which they will temporarily handle all matters while the Process is ongoing, including the responsibility and manner of paying the ongoing expenses of the parties and their children, the sharing of the rights and responsibilities related to the children, and a mutual assurance by both spouses that neither will make any unusual expenditures and/or take any other significant actions during the process without the advance consent of the other spouse;
- The parties have the opportunity to consider a variety of different options and proposals for resolving issues, many of which may not be considered by a Judge if the latter were making these decisions for the parties;
- The process will likely involve a great deal less stress and anxiety, as the parties are in control of the end result; not some third person (the Judge);
- The parents are able to resolve those issues involving their minor children in a way that they both agree works best for them and their children; and
- The parties have the satisfaction of knowing that they have jointly and mutually concluded an agreement on all of the issues, in a manner that works best for themselves and their children.