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By the numbers--how collaborative divorce works

Since collaborative divorce has become an option in the state of Washington, it has been gaining in popularity. Couples who wish to end their marriage come together in meetings with their attorneys, during which they work to find common ground that will result in an amicable divorce agreement.

The divorcing parties set the pace for the collaborative process. Here is a look at the basic steps a couple will go through when they decide on this option.

1. Making a commitment

Both parties must sign a participation agreement in which they commit to collaborative divorce and confirm their understanding that should the process break down, their current attorneys cannot represent them further in the case.

2. Identifying goals

The parties will present both short- and long-term goals for their family. These are often more detailed than what the court would consider during litigation, and the couple can revise goals as necessary as the collaboration process continues.

3. Keeping to the agenda

There will be an agenda for each meeting so there are no surprises, and everyone knows what to expect. There will be minutes taken and summaries distributed. The participants may receive assignments to complete prior to the next meeting.

4. Filing the petition

Once the participants reach a settlement, a joint petition can be filed with the court. This essentially confirms that the parties have reached an agreement and are requesting the dissolution of the marriage. The court will dissolve the marriage during the final hearing.

A civilized ending

Many people seek to engage in collaborative divorce because experience has shown that a less stressful and rancorous process is easier for all concerned, especially if a couple has young children. Collaboration is also confidential, which is especially appealing to high-visibility couples who want to end their marriage out of the public eye. Additionally, it is often more cost-effective than traditional divorce, a fact all couples appreciate no matter what their financial circumstances may be. Finally, collaboration is a way to end a marriage in a private, civilized manner so that retaining the family structure is possible going forward.

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