Couple with child

Brian King is a participating party in the WNC Collaborative Law Group
Article written by David J Irvine, Jr.

It probably sounds to many people like divorce is far from collaborative.  After all, a couple who once promised to be together forever are calling it quits.  How can that be collaborative?

Collaborative Divorce or Collaborative Family Law is not so much about the divorce itself being collaborative, but rather how the couple goes about separating and divorcing that can either make it collaborative or adversarial.  Most of us understand what an adversarial divorce looks like.  An adversarial divorce involves the filing of a lawsuit, disagreements over what should happen, arguments by lawyers, taking and defending positions.  This process can be expensive, time-consuming, and heartbreakingly toxic.  Children are often collateral damage.

Does it have to be this way?  No.  Collaborative Divorce is a different approach.  It does not mean everyone walks away happy.  Nor does it mean that the spouses agree on everything.  It does mean that the spouses agree to work together to resolve their dispute privately, respectfully, and collaboratively.

The hallmarks of Collaborative Divorce:

  1. Control remains with the parties and their attorneys.
  2. The attorneys agree to not serve as litigation counsel if settlement is unsuccessful.
  3. The parties are not subject to strict rules of evidence and procedure.
  4. There is a free and voluntary exchange of information and documentation.
  5. Interest-based negotiation vs. position-based litigation.
  6. Private sessions vs. public court hearings.
  7. The ultimate goal is resolution as opposed to “winning.”

Unlike a personal injury lawsuit where the parties will have no involvement after the case is over, a separating and divorcing couple may be linked together for the rest of their lives through their children.  There may be graduations, weddings, and grandchildren in the future.  If the divorcing couple can maintain some degree of civility and respect for each other after the divorce, their children and grandchildren are the beneficiaries of that good will.

Collaborative Divorce is a new way of looking at an old problem.  If you and your spouse are separating and/or divorcing, the collaborative approach may be right for you if you want to spend less money, keep your personal business private and avoid the scorched earth approach that often accompanies litigation.  Several local lawyers from Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania, and Rutherford Counties have created WNC Collaborative Law Group to bring Collaborative Divorce to Western North Carolina.

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