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When most people think of divorce, they imagine drawn-out court battles between bitterly fighting spouses. But once you and your spouse have made the decision to end your marriage, you don’t want a difficult divorce holding you back from moving forward with your life.
While some disagreements truly cannot be resolved without the intervention of a judge, you and your spouse may be on good enough terms to work through the terms of your divorce together. You can avoid the ordeal of going to court by opting for a collaborative divorce – otherwise known in California as collaborative law or collaborative practice.
A California collaborative divorce is similar to divorce mediation in a number of ways:
However, collaborative divorce has several key differences compared to mediation:
Call the Moradi Saslaw collaborative law attorneys today at (415) 625-4587 to discuss whether collaborative divorce is the best option for your family’s future.
When starting the collaborative divorce process, both parties hire their own attorneys. For the best approach, it’s important to hire an attorney who is specifically trained in collaborative law. You’ll meet privately with your attorney first to discuss:
Establishing your goals and boundaries beforehand allows for a much smoother negotiation.
Before the collaborative law process begins, you, your spouse, and both of your attorneys must sign a Collaborative Divorce Participation Agreement (PA). Under this agreement:
The Participation Agreement is a contract between you and your spouse to:
If you and your spouse are unable to come to a settlement agreement through collaboration, you will both have to find new attorneys to move forward with your divorce in court.
In a collaborative divorce, all negotiations happen over multiple “four-way” meetings between you, your attorney, your spouse, and your spouse’s collaborative divorce attorney. These meetings often include neutral third-party professionals who apply their expertise to find solutions to your issues. For high-net-worth couples, your collaborative divorce may involve:
For more difficult negotiations, your attorneys may also bring in a licensed mediator.
When you and your spouse come to an agreement on your issues, your lawyers will draft a written settlement agreement. Once both parties sign, your attorney will file your divorce papers and settlement agreement with your local family court.
Because you’ve already resolved all of your issues through the collaborative law process, this stage is usually simple and uncontested. As soon as the court processes your paperwork, your divorce will become official along with the terms of your settlement.
Below is a generalized example of the collaborative divorce process:
Jane Doe is a real estate developer with properties managed under multiple corporate entities. Jill Doe is a startup entrepreneur with stock options that have yet to vest. Jane and Jill have been married for 5 years and have no children. As a result of the travel required of both their jobs, they’ve grown apart.
Although Jane and Jill are ending their marriage, they remain on good terms and associate with some of the same professional circles. Jill also leases office space in one of Jane’s commercial properties. Jane approaches our firm for divorce representation.
Because of their amicable separation and the added professional dynamic of their relationship, Jane and Jill opt for a collaborative divorce. The structured process and support team allow them to even the playing field, regulate emotional conflict, and negotiate comfortably. The strict deadlines also appeal to their fast-paced schedules.
To divide their assets, Jane and Jill’s lawyers hire a local property assessor, a startup valuation expert, and a wealth management specialist. Working together in multiple “four-way” meetings, the team creates settlement terms that equally divide the couple’s communal property to their satisfaction.
Once Jane and Jill sign the written divorce settlement agreement, they file their paperwork with their local court to make their divorce official.
Collaborative divorce offers structure and support. Mediation gives you flexibility and control. The best choice for you depends on your unique issues and needs.
Collaborative law has set procedural rules and protocols to follow with specially trained lawyers. You must choose and commit to the collaborative law process from the beginning. Many collaborative divorces involve input from other neutral professionals. Negotiations are conducted only through “four-way” meetings where both parties and their lawyers are present.
Mediation, on the other hand, can be completed with just three people: you, your spouse, and the mediator. You can use mediation at any point in your divorce. You work directly with your mediator to decide how your divorce moves forward. You set the procedure and your schedule.
Most importantly, if negotiations break down, collaborative law requires that you start the divorce process over with new attorneys. Mediation allows you to keep your legal team and move forward with litigation if necessary.
In California, your divorce cannot be finalized until six months after your initial divorce papers are served. Depending on your schedule, a collaborative divorce settlement can often be ready for filing by that time. The collaborative divorce process rarely takes more than one year.
Collaborative divorce is a unique solution for couples who want a cooperative and structured end to their marriage. In addition to the support of a team of professionals throughout the divorce process, collaborative settlements usually include terms for dealing with issues that arise after your divorce is finalized.
The Moradi Saslaw team is specially trained in collaborative law practices. Our law firm maintains relationships with leading collaborative law professionals in the Bay Area. Your divorce is in good hands with our network of esteemed accountants, appraisers, asset evaluators, and wealth management experts.
Call our San Francisco offices now at (415) 625-4587 or contact us online to speak with a local experienced collaborative divorce attorney about the best way forward for your family.