A welcome development in recent years regarding family law has been the proliferation of a practice referred to as “collaborative law.” This is a form of alternative dispute resolution, which is settling legal disputes without going through traditional litigation. Collaborative law can be especially for divorce agreements, as such proceedings in court are marked by intense stress, anger, and other strong emotions.
Our firm encourages the use of alternative dispute resolution when you have made the difficult decision to divorce. Collaborative law is a situation in which both spouses, along with both spouses’ attorneys, sign an agreement that commits all parties to the divorce agreement and precludes both parties from going to court. This approach is often a good method of going through a divorce because spouses enjoy the benefit of having qualified legal counsel but avoid the contentious court battles.
In addition to the presence of attorneys, spouses going this route should also employ the services of other professionals who can offer guidance during the creation of the agreement. North Carolina law refers to these professionals as “third-party expert(s).” Examples are as follows:
- Mental Health Professionals (Coach). Psychologists, counselors, and therapists can operate as the mental health professional in a collaborative divorce, but they often do not provide one-on-one therapy sessions for spouses going through a divorce. They are merely there to guide the process and ensure it is going along smoothly. These professionals remind both sides of the ultimate goal during the process and can provide tips on how to break the news to children and other family members.
- Financial Professionals. An accountant, financial advisor, or other professional that is qualified in collaborative divorce can fill this role. In the process, the financial professional can properly inventory marital and separate property, provide information on tax and pension issues, and, importantly, answer questions at a conference attended by both spouses. This ensures that each side is operating on similar information.
- Child Specialists. As well as helping you communicate with your children about your divorce, child specialists can give advice on how to protect your children from resentment and hostility among spouses that can accompany a divorce. During conferences between spouses, child specialists can also act as a voice for children and advocate for their needs. As with the professionals listed above, the opinion of child specialists is neither final nor legally binding.
For a collaborative divorce, both parties need to disabuse themselves of the notion that the process is a competition in which there is a winner and loser. When both spouses are able to operate on the principle that divorce is a problem for which there is a solution that satisfies all parties, then collaborative law can be effective. For more information on this approach to divorce or other ways Easterling Law can help you with your family law situation, please reach out to us soon to get started with a consultation.