Collaborative Divorce

In a collaborative divorce, the parties commit to settle their case. To show that commitment, they sign a contract called a Participation Agreement that signifies the commencement of a collaborative divorce.  As the case progresses and issues arise, other professionals such as custody and financial experts, are brought in to help resolve the case issue-by-issue.  Five of our family law attorneys are often considered by their peers as leaders in New Jersey Collaborative Divorce:  Amy Shimalla, Amy Wechsler, Rita Aquilio, and Lawrence Law Founder, Jeralyn Lawrence. They are frequent lecturers at divorce and family law programs designed to teach other attorneys and collaborative professionals in this area of law.  The collaborative approach mitigates fighting and the strain of litigation, while promoting respect and keeps the spouses in control of the divorce process.

Frequently Asked New Jersey Collaborative Divorce Questions

What is a collaborative divorce?

It is an approach to divorce by using a “team” approach to identify and address the issues to be resolved. The “team” consists of the parties, their collaboratively trained attorneys and other professionals or experts.

How does the process work?

The parties and their attorneys sign a Participation Agreement, which is a contract and states that they will use their best efforts to resolve the matter without court intervention. The attorneys will represent the parties during the collaborative process, during negotiations, in order to reach a settlement. The attorneys agree to withdraw from the case if either spouse decides to file any pleadings other than those needed to obtain an uncontested divorce.

What are benefits of collaborative divorce?

The benefits for the parties include being cost-effective, open and transparent exchange of financial documents, and having a team approach, rather than a one-sided, emotionally draining dynamic. It is also confidential and not open to the public so the parties can protect and ensure their privacy. The meetings also occur at an attorney’s office instead of at the courthouse and occur at a time convenient to all individuals.

Does an attorney need special training to handle a collaborative divorce?

No.  However, an attorney should complete sixteen (16) hours of collaborative training, have mediation training (which is forty hours), as well as an annual refresher requirement of four hours.

Besides lawyers, are other professionals part of the collaborative divorce process?

Yes, while each situation is different, teams can be comprised of a financial professional, a divorce coach, and/or a child specialist. Other professionals may include appraisers, mortgage brokers or other vocational experts.

Does a Collaborative Divorce cost less than a traditional divorce or mediation?

It generally costs less than litigation. Litigation is an adversarial process that requires extensive time and resources, both of the parties and the attorneys representing them. In contract, the collaborative process is one which is confidential and promotes the parties working together in hopes of efficiently and expeditiously resolving all issues amicably between them.

How is Collaborative Divorce Process better for our children?

By its very nature, it is a less adversarial process which promotes the parties’ working together. This not only transcends the parties resolving issues relative to the divorce proceedings but encourages that they work together to promote the best interests of the minor children involved. The entire philosophy of the collaborative approach is to keep the children at the forefront of the divorce but not in the middle.

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