If your marriage has ended, you need to take legal action to protect your interests. You will want legally enforceable agreements regarding child custody and visitation, child support, alimony or spousal support and the division of marital debts and assets. For some people, the best way to resolve differences is through the conventional divorce process. If, however, you believe that you can work cooperatively with your ex to find solutions to your disputes, you may want to consider the collaborative approach to divorce.
In the conventional divorce process, one of the parties must file a complaint, and both parties typically retain their own counsel. Attorneys for the parties may seek to negotiate settlements to differences, but will also turn to the court, in an adversarial proceeding, to get the best results for their respective clients.
The process can be a long one, depending on the complexity of the situation. It is not unusual to have a period of time devoted exclusively to “discovery,” where the parties seek to gather as much evidence as possible to support their claims. This period can take months. Once discovery is complete, the parties will prepare for trial, if necessary. This may involve motion hearings to determine the admissibility of evidence, as well as other proceedings. In the trial, either or both parties may be called to testify, and other witnesses may appear. Though divorce trials are typically not that long, they are adversarial processes and will heighten stress, anxiety, and hard feelings.
In the collaborative process, on the other hand, the parties, though they each have their own counsel, agree to resolve all their differences without the intervention of the court. To this end, the parties and their attorney seek mutually beneficial solutions, often hiring experts (such as financial planners and child psychologists) to identify solutions. There is generally little to no discovery, and no hearings or proceedings scheduled in court. If the parties cannot resolve their differences without the assistance of the court, though, they must both hire new counsel to represent them in any adversarial proceeding.
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