Inevitably, divorce brings a cascade of emotions. But bitterness does not need to consume the process.
In fact, it can often be avoided – and divorce concluded at less expense – through Alabama Cooperative-Collaborative Divorce Proceedings.
Birmingham Divorce Attorney Steven Eversole of Eversole Law LLC has a great deal of experience in representing clients who enter a collaborative divorce agreement. We have found by-and-large, participating in this voluntary process enables divorcing couples to avoid uncertain outcomes that sometimes result when these cases have to be litigated in court.
The collaborative divorce process is used to facilitate agreements on a broad range of family issues, including disputes over parenting time, spousal support, child support and property division. However, it doesn't necessarily mean separating couples have any major disagreements. They may just be seeking assistance in making decisions together and looking for advice on how to protect both individuals' interests.
Some key benefits of collaborative divorce include:
- Voluntary exchange of relative information (as opposed to responding to court orders for such)
- Achieve a workable temporary agreement pending divorce
- Streamline processes and minimize expenses
- Negotiate a settlement that works for all involved
- Agree on post-divorce arrangements
Collaborative divorce allows those involved to avoid a contentious trial. It functions through mutual agreement, rather than pitting former partners against one another.
The Collaborative Divorce Process in Alabama
Couples who choose to enter a collaborative divorce sign a participation agreement, in which they agree to commit to the process and abide by the terms reached. Each person is represented by their own family law attorney, but they share the cost of services for other professionals involved. These can include financial analysts or accountants, child custody specialists and other neutral professionals.
If the process goes well, the end result is an agreement that spells out terms of the divorce. That agreement will ultimately be approved and finalized by a judge, who will grant the divorce. It's typically a must faster and less expensive process than a divorce that is litigated.
However, if the process is unsuccessful, both attorneys must resign from the case. The couple then has to separately retain additional counsel and prepare for the case to go to court to be hammered out by a judge. The fact that this possibility leaves so much in the hands of a third party (the judge) often motivates people to continue working through the collaborative process, even when tough issues arise.
Also worth noting is that the process is confidential. When cases are handled in open court, all of those details become part of the public record. This is something many couples hope to avoid. Whatever information is exchanged as part of the collaboration process remains private, and can't be used later at trial. This tends to encourage divorcing couples to be candid with one another, which can be tremendously helpful in moving the process along expeditiously.
Collaboration vs. Mediation
Collaborative divorce is similar to mediation, but there are some key differences. Both processes are informal and flexible and are decidedly less expensive and less time-consuming than litigation.
However, in mediation, there is a single neutral person (the mediator) who guides negotiation. He or she has no power to decide the case and there is no obligation for either side to hire an attorney (though it's generally recommended). In collaboration, each side is represented by their respective divorce attorney and they hold regular “four-way” meetings in order to reach agreements on points of contention.
While mediation typically involves just the two divorcing parties and a mediator (and sometimes attorneys), a key component of collaboration is the involvement of other outside professionals. While it tends to take longer and be more costly than mediation, collaboration can be especially beneficial for those with complex division decisions.
Most who go through the collaborative process express confidence in the decisions they made because they were well-informed by those professionals.
In a survey of more than 500 divorces conducted by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, 87 percent of cases were resolved. Another 3 percent ended with the parties reconciling and deciding not to divorce. Ten percent failed in their negotiations and had to litigate their divorce.
Our personal experience has been that the collaborative process can be highly successful in Alabama divorce cases.