Collaborative divorce is a set of voluntary ground rules entered into by divorcing couples and their respective attorneys. Collaborative divorce is very different from the adversarial approach most people envision divorce to be. Instead of a “me vs. you” attitude, collaborative divorce focuses on negotiating an agreement that meets ― as best as possible ― the needs of all family members. This negotiated agreement is reached through understanding what each family member needs/wants, gathering financial records and other types of information needed to make informed decisions, and then talking through a solution.
Communicating productively requires a certain degree of openness and vulnerability which is why clearly delineating the ground rules and what constitutes acceptable behavior is heart of the collaborative divorce process. Following are some of the key elements or rules of collaborative divorce.
Commitment to Cooperation
Fundamental to the collaborative divorce process is a commitment to cooperation, respect, and integrity. All involved strive for a respectful, creative effort to meet the legitimate needs of both participants and their children, if children are involved.
Open & Honest Exchange of Information
In collaborative divorce, there is an open, honest exchange of information. The participants freely disclose all financial information and pertinent material. Neither participant takes advantage of the miscalculations or mistakes of the others. Errors are identified and corrected.
Access to Funds
In collaborative divorce, both participants have equal access to the family’s funds to ensure that they both have access to professionals including collaborative attorneys of their choosing.
Shielding Children from Disputes
If children are involved, both participants insulate the children from their disputes and, if custody becomes an issue, professional custody evaluations are avoided. Parents agree to not disparage the other parent to the children and commit to the principles outlined in “The Children’s Bill of Rights.” To avoid disputes over child custody in the future, spouses work out a parenting plan.