Say “No” to Divorce Litigation and “Yes” to Collaborative Divorce

by | Mar 5, 2014 | Alternative Dispute Resolution, Divorce, Podcast, Settle Your Divorce

Episode 27


Disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only and are not to be considered a substitute for professional legal advice or a consultation with a lawyer.Katherine Miller Collaborative Divorce Artwork

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1. Family Law Tip of the Week

If you find yourself in court with your ex and unable to agree, ask yourself whether old, unresolved feelings from the past might be holding you back from case settlement. Are you taking certain positions out of anger or in an effort to control? If so, is this in your best interests or, if you have children, is it in the best interests of the children?

If you aren’t able to come to terms with your shared history with your ex, maybe it is time to clear the air. Clearing the air might mean that you get counseling individually, as a family, or that you just sit down for a cup of coffee to talk. Getting rid of that emotional baggage will do wonders for your state of mind and for your future.

2. Say “No” to Divorce Litigation and “Yes” to Collaborative Divorce

Katherine Miller is a New York attorney who has been practicing collaborative divorce law for 11 years. She arrived at this point in her career because of her own divorce. Katherine and her husband tried to mediate their own case, but it didn’t work (in large part, she thinks, because he wasn’t a lawyer). Fortunately, they did settle after collaborating.

After facing the fear of having her own children being the subject of a custody battle, Katherine decided to begin practicing law a different way. She actually took steps to leave the law. However, before she actually left the law, Katherine took a collaborative training. Within 15 minutes, Katherine felt like she had come home.

What Collaborative Divorce Means

Collaborative divorce is an approach that requires all professional members of the team to agree to stay out of court. The divorce situation is approached from a problem-solving approach. All relevant information is gathered, the parties arrive at a shared understanding and then they work through the issues without the threat of litigation.

Both individuals are informed about the law. They are supported by their own lawyers. They are also supported by other non-lawyer professionals (mental health and financial professionals).

The purpose of lawyers in this model is to deal with the legal issues. The financial professional deals with money matters from a neutral perspective. The mental health professionals help with parenting concerns, as well as the emotional components of the divorce which can be problematic (at best) and devastating (at worst).

There is real value in the collaborative process in that people learn to deal with conflict more constructively. People often get frustrated because they don’t feel understood by the soon-to-be-ex. The mental health professionals often suggest ways that people can make themselves be heard or how they can listen more effectively.

There are 2 ways for people to work with mental health professionals in this model. The first way is that both people work with one person who is a neutral coach. The second way is that each person has his/her own individual coach. In the second type of situation, the relationship each party has with his/her coach is more private.

Collaborative Divorce and Money

It helps to think of the value behind a collaborative divorce. If people can get a better result doing a collaborative divorce, in the long run it will cost less money. Sometimes it helps to look at the cost of a divorce (and therapy) over the lifetime. A collaborative divorce has the potential to have a better result that delivers better value.

Rest assured that in this type of process, people freely exchange information. It is done more efficiently than in traditional divorce litigation. This also helps save time and money.

Collaborative Divorce Process

During the collaborative process, people do enter into a written agreement. Part of the agreement is that if the process breaks down and they want to go to court, they can’t use the lawyers they have hired for the collaborative process.

When someone is getting ready to go through a divorce, s/he should research the ways in which s/he could resolve the case (litigation, mediation, collaborative divorce, etc.) It is also important for the individual to interview different attorneys to find out who might be the best fit for them. Research, research, research!

BE ADVISED: Collaborative divorce IS for angry, betrayed and scared people, too. It’s not just for “tree-huggers” (not that there’s anything wrong with that). If you’re not looking to DESTROY the other person, this is something worth exploring.

Katherine highly advises that people explore a full-team collaborative divorce (with mental health and financial professionals). In most jurisdictions, however, this is not required. Even if someone doesn’t want to do a full-team collaborative process, it might be valuable to jointly retain a neutral financial professional to project the future of the parties. This often puts minds at ease.

Financial professionals who might be able to help are CPAs, financial planners, and Certified Divorce Financial Analysts. The type of professional you select depends on the financial facts of your case.

To close out, if you are someone who is contemplating divorce, Katherine recommends taking a look at the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals at She also recommends approaching your partner and telling him or her that you want to do this in a way that is not going to disadvantage either party. Katherine also recommends having some written material on collaborative divorce available to give to your spouse.

You can find Katherine at or at 914-738-7765.

3. Thoughts From the Life Coach

We are here on this planet to be happy. How can you be more happy on a daily basis? Have more fun!

That is the topic of today’s thoughts from James.

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