What Is a Collaborative Divorce in Pennsylvania?
The dissolution of a marriage does not need to be a battleground. If you are facing divorce in Pennsylvania, it may not be necessary to resolve issues such as child custody, child support, alimony, and property division through the court. In a collaborative divorce, both spouses and their attorneys work together to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both parties. This process is different from divorce litigation, in which the spouses hire lawyers to represent them, the parties fight it out in court, and the judge rules on the issues.
How Does a Collaborative Divorce Begin?
The process begins when you and your spouse sign a Collaborative Law Participation Agreement. This is a commitment in writing to:
- Listen to each other’s perspectives and concerns
- Exchange and disclose information freely and honestly
- Treat all participants with courtesy and respect
- Focus on the future rather than dwelling on the past
- Work together to further the best interests of your children
- Negotiate in good faith to reach a solution that is sustainable and acceptable to both parties
How Does the Collaborative Divorce Process Work?
Once the Collaborative Law Participation Agreement has been signed, the next step is to set an agenda for you, your attorney, your spouse, and his or her attorney to sit down together, discuss the issues, and try to reach an agreement through settlement negotiations. If needed, joint specialists, such as a financial specialist, a child specialist, or a divorce coach, may be called to the table to work with both you and your spouse. The attorneys and specialists make up a collaborative divorce team that has the common goal of finding the best options and resolutions for your family.
Collaborative divorce meetings are typically held in a professional’s office and last no longer than two hours. (Studies have shown that divorce negotiations become less productive after two hours.) The number of meetings required depends on the time it takes to address and resolve issues in the divorce, such as child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, and property division.
Does the Judge Need to Approve the Terms of Your Settlement Agreement?
If the parties can reach agreements on all major issues, they are put down in writing and signed by both spouses. This marital settlement agreement is a contract that will be merged and incorporated into the divorce to protect the rights of all concerned. If the judge approves of the terms of the agreement, it is appended to the divorce decree.
Although parents may suggest child support arrangements, judges are required to adhere to Pennsylvania support guidelines in awarding child support. The court, in its discretion, may sever the child custody portion of a marital settlement agreement if it decides it is in the best interests of the child to do so. Under state child custody law, there is no presumption that custody should be awarded to a particular parent. Our experienced Pennsylvania divorce mediation lawyer can help ensure your settlement agreement does not violate state laws and guidelines.
What Happens If You and Your Spouse Are Unable to Reach an Agreement?
If an agreement cannot be reached in collaborative divorce negotiations, your attorney will inform you of your options and help you decide on how to proceed. Your options may include mediation as another opportunity to reach an agreement, with a mediator facilitating negotiations or proceeding to divorce litigation.
What Are the Advantages of Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative divorce offers a number of advantages over a litigated divorce. Among other things, it:
- Allows you to avoid going to court
- Protects your family’s privacy
- Allows for open communication
- Encourages mutual courtesy and respect
- Identifies and addresses concerns and interests of all parties
- Is less complicated, less expensive, and less stressful than traditional divorce
- Allows you to maintain control of the process
- Uses a problem-solving approach
- Allows for customized solutions
- Helps you preserve financial assets
- Stresses the needs of your children
- Allows for a faster divorce process
- Provides tools for post-divorce co-parenting
- Helps prepare you for the future
- Results in a workable marital settlement agreement
What Role Does a Divorce Mediation Lawyer Play in a Collaborative Divorce?
In a collaborative divorce, both the parties and their attorneys make a commitment to settle all issues without threats or litigation. Your attorney will work with you to improve communication and make the best decisions for the entire family, particularly the children. Instead of fighting it out in an adversarial courtroom setting, your attorney can help you focus on finding common ground while protecting your rights and those of your children. This win-win strategy can result in the best outcomes for the entire family.
Your collaborative divorce mediation attorney can help you determine the outcomes you and your spouse both want to achieve and utilize objective criteria to help you achieve those goals. She can help you focus on interests rather than positions, help you find common interests rather than focus on personal needs, and help you seek areas of mutual gain. Having an experienced attorney who is well-versed in collaborative law is an essential factor in the success of collaborative divorce.
Why Choose Us to Represent You in a Collaborative Divorce?
At Peak Legal Group, we have extensive knowledge of the law and a focus on relationships. Our clients are never numbers to us. We are responsive to your needs and help you understand your options in any legal situation so you can make the best decision possible under the circumstances. Working with us can give you peace of mind, knowing you are doing everything you can to protect yourself and your family. Contact us at (610) 989-7064 to find out more about a collaborative divorce.