Alabama Divorce & Collaborative Law

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Sep 10, 2007 | 0 Comments

Collaborative law is a relatively new phenomenon in legal circles.  My firm believes that collaborative law is a very viable and healthy means to effectuate a divorce.  In fact, we stress collaborative processes and other alternative dispute resolution methods in order to keep your divorce costs low.  It is also a means to protect your family against the trauma often associated with contested and messy divorces.  We tailor your legal needs to the situation.  If you are a good candidate for mediation or collaborative law, we will pursue that option. If you are in need of aggressive litigation, we also provide those services.  However, I am here to help you.  And steering you towards a divorce that only fattens my pocket is not in your best interest, and is often not in your families long term interest either.  Resistance to the collaborative process seems to be primarily from old attorneys, who are holding on tightly to the past, and want to continue milking their clients for every dollar. 

Here is a nice article on the collaborative process. You will also find a basic introduction to the collaborative process reprinted from here:

What is Collaborative law?

When they separate or divorce, couples must find a way to resolve their differences on all relevant issues. Collaborative practice is designed to minimize conflict while working toward that resolution. Parties to divorce, their attorneys and any other professional involved, agree to make a good faith attempt to reach a mutually acceptable settlement without going to court. Working together, they strive to dissolve the marriage in a way that addresses everyone's legal, financial, and emotional needs.

At the beginning of the process husband, wife, and both attorneys sign a Participation Agreement. The agreement requires both parties to:

  1. exchange complete financial information so that each spouse can make well-informed decisions
  2. maintain absolute confidentiality during the process, so that each spouse can feel free to express his or her needs and concerns,
  3. reach written agreement on all issues and concerns outside of contested court proceedings
  4. authorize the attorneys to use the written agreement to obtain a final court decree.

The parties may also agree to involve other professionals to assist in the process. These professionals are also bound by the terms of the Collaborative Agreement.

Is Collaborative Law right for you?

Collaborative law empowers spouses to dissolve their marriage with dignity.

Consider Collaborative law if you and your spouse:

  • believe it is important to protect your children from the harm litigation can inflict
  • place a high value on personal responsibility in resolving conflict
  • are able to focus on a positive solution for the entire family
  • want to preserve a respectful working relationship during and after the process is over
  • see the need to disclose full and accurate information about financial issues

How it works

First, both spouses meet with their respective Collaborative attorneys to discuss individual needs and concerns. Then, the couple and their attorneys meet in four-way sessions to reach a settlement without involving the court. Every issue – including property division, parenting allocation, and support – is put “on the table” in these sessions. At times other professionals including Mental Health Professionals and Financial Experts may become part of the “team” to assist couples in reaching resolutions. Divorcing parties benefit from the skills, advice, and support of attorneys and other professionals while striving to work things out in a positive, future-focused manner.

When a settlement is reached, attorneys file the appropriate paperwork required by the court.

Key advantages

  • You retain control. Though you each have a lawyer, you and your spouse take responsibility for shaping the settlement as the key members of the team.
  • You gain support. You craft the settlement cooperatively with your spouse while benefiting from your attorney's advocacy, problem-solving, and negotiating skills. You receive insight and support from other professionals who assist in identifying your interests and your children's needs.
  • You can focus on settlement. Removing the threat of “going to court” reduces anxiety and fear, thereby helping you focus on finding positive solutions.
  • You lay groundwork for a better future. There is no pain-free way to end a marriage, but by reducing stress, working in a climate of cooperation, and treating each other with respect, you and your spouse are creating an environment in which you and your children can thrive.
  • You get more from your resources. The collaborative process is usually less costly and time-consuming than litigation. When you reach an agreement, it can be finalized within a shorter time frame. You do not get bogged down for months while you wait for a court date.
  • You negotiate a better settlement. Every family is unique and every family deserves a unique solution to the issues raised in a separation or divorce proceeding. The collaborative process produces final agreements that are frequently more detailed and complete than any order that would be issued by a judge after a contested court proceeding.

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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