Frequently Asked Questions
My spouse doesn't want to agree to Collaborative. What are my options?
Both spouses do have to agree to use Collaborative Divorce--simply put, there is no way to force the other spouse to agree to the Collaborative model of divorce. BACP suggests trying conversation between the spouses, and conversation between the two attorneys involved, to explore the option. It is best to have those conversations very early, ideally before a divorce is filed. If one spouse has already selected an attorney who is not trained in Collaborative Divorce, it is especially difficult to switch to Collaborative as most people are reluctant to change attorneys.
My spouse and I aren't communicating well and I'm not sure that we will be able to do Collaborative Divorce.
It's a common myth that Collaborative Divorce is only for those couples who can communicate well. After all, most couples facing divorce are there at least partly because of communication problems and often a lack of trust as well. Collaborative works such a high percentage of the time because of the guiding presence of the professionals present and their training in interest-based negotiation and conflict resolution. The one situation that may indicate that Collaborative is not a good fit is the presence of Domestic Violence. When it is dangerous for the spouses to be in a room together and especially with the resulting power imbalance that comes with Domestic Violence, Collaborative is not a good choice.
What are the costs of Collaborative Divorce as compared to more traditional, adversarial divorce?
Typically, the costs are about half of a typical divorce. However, without knowing your precise situation and the issues involved, it is impossible to give a cost estimate. This is a great question to ask your attorney during an initial consultation.
How often is Collaborative Divorce successful at reaching an agreement?
National research by the IACP indicates a 90% success rate---and of course the corollary is that an average of 10% of the cases cannot reach agreement using this model. If a case fails, that means that both attorneys must withdraw from the case, none of the information shared using the Collaborative process can be used in subsequent litigation, and neither the financial professional or mental health professional can be used as a witness in any subsequent litigation.
What happens when Collaborative Divorce reaches an impasse?
When there is a stumbling block to agreement--which can happen often--the attorneys and other professionals work hard to come up with creative ways to move past the disagreement. The collaborative team can even bring in a mediator (a neutral professional with conflict resolution training) to assist with breaking an impasse. The mediator cannot force a decision (that would be the job of an arbitrator or a judge).
Do my spouse and I each need an attorney---can't we just share the same one?
It is critical that both spouses have their own attorneys and that both attorneys be trained in Collaborative Divorce. The attorney members of BACP believe it is a non-waivable conflict of interest for one attorney to represent both sides in the same case. For example, just raising an issue could unalterably benefit one side over the other, no matter how the issue is then resolved.
Is it really necessary to have a mental health professional involved? I like the idea but am worried about keeping costs in check.
With the typically lower costs of Collaborative Divorce, putting a portion of that savings into the assistance of a mental health professional can be an especially good investment. A mental health professional can help guide difficult conversations at Collaborative conferences, help educate both parents about the impact of their behavior on their children, and can help ensure that the soon-to-be-former spouses transition as smoothly as possible from the rancor of the separation and divorce to a civil and productive ability to communicate as co-parents long into the future. BACP attorneys recommend having a mental health professional as a neutral on every Collaborative Divorce.
Is it really necessary to have a financial professional involved? Again, I like the idea but am worried about keeping costs in check.
A financial professional can often save more money than he or she costs by finding ways to ensure a fair mix of liquid, retirement, and assets for each spouse, minimizing tax consequences, and helping both spouses plan for the future. BACP attorneys recommend having a financial professional review every Collaborative Divorce agreement, at a minimum. Attorneys are certainly familiar with the financial aspects of divorce, but are not trained as tax professionals or financial planning professionals.
How long does it take to do a Collaborative Divorce? As compared to an adversarial divorce?
Any divorce in Indiana must take at least sixty (60) days, by statute. Typically, an adversarial divorce can take six months to a year--or longer, if there are complications. A Collaborative Divorce is very flexible. If the spouses are emotionally prepared to move forward and negotiate and the finances can be gathered quickly, many Collaborative Divorces have Marital Settlement Agreements ready for the Judge to sign on day 60. On the other hand, often spouses have particular reasons for delaying a divorce, ranging from giving a spouse time to find other insurance, giving the children time to adapt, giving a spouse time to complete addiction recovery, to giving time for financial valuation of business or pension interests. Without the court setting the case for hearing, the timeline can be customized for the circumstances of each case.
How long has Collaborative Divorce been around?
Collaborative Divorce was started by attorney Stu Webb in Minnesota in the early 1990s, quickly spreading across the country and now the globe. See the IACP website for more information on the growth of Collaborative Practice. Collaborative Divorce has been growing in Indiana since about 2006.
How do I know that the mental health and financial professionals stay truly neutral?
The members of BACP believe that neutrality is key. No attorney, financial professional, or mental health professional who was involved in your Collaborative Divorce should have any other interest in your case. Neither of the attorneys (or their firms) will be able to represent either spouse in any related litigation if Collaborative fails. No financial professional will be able to be an adviser to either spouse post-divorce. And no mental health professional will serve as either spouses's therapist during or after the divorce.
Is Collaborative Divorce accepted by the local courts?
Monroe County Judges are familiar with Collaborative Divorce. In fact, there is a local rule for Monroe County Courts that allows the filing of a Joint Petition for Dissolution (divorce) in Collaborative cases. In other counties, the attorneys may not be able to file a joint petition, but by filing a document called a Joint Stipulation with the court, the attorneys are able to communicate to the Court that this is a Collaborative Divorce and what that means.
Can I use Collaborative if I'm separating from someone to whom I was never married?
Yes. Collaborative can be used for partners (opposite sex and same sex both) who are separating, with or without children. In fact, Collaborative can be used in other areas of law--although in our area, it is mostly used for family law cases only.