Collaborative Divorce is a relatively new method (approximately thirty-years) for divorcing couples to resolve their disputes as respectfully as possible and without having to go to court. Here in Virginia, the Uniform Collaborative Law Act was signed into law in 2021. The Code of Virginia, Chapter 11, §20-168 through §20-187. The heart of this divorce process, also referred to as “divorce with dignity”, “no-court divorce”, and “peaceful divorce”, is to offer separating people the professional legal protection, support, and guidance of their own separate attorneys without actually having to take their case to court. Commonly collaborative law processes can be used for divorce, child custody, parenting time support issues, or premarital or post marital agreements.
WHAT IS COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE?
Collaborative Divorce is a unique practice in which the spouses promise to keep the case out of court and negotiate a settlement which resolves all the issues related to the marriage without costly litigation. The goal is to address the interests and needs of the family and to solve problems with a team of professionals to reach an agreement with less stress and hostility than a traditional divorce.
With more than 35 years of dedicated legal experience, Nova Legal Professionals can help you through the Collaborative Divorce process in Virginia. The firm will not only help you alleviate the stress associated with the divorce process, but will also help ensure your case reaches the best possible outcome. Consider scheduling a consultation with Nova Legal Professionals today at their Manassas or Fairfax locations.
WHO IS ON THE TEAM?
While Collaborative Divorce is a process that aims to avoid taking the case to court, the divorce settlement is still a legal agreement. Consequently, each party must be legally prepared and committed to the unique practice of this divorce model.
In Collaborative Divorce cases, each party will have their lawyer and a team of neutral professionals which may include a financial specialist, child specialist, and mental health professional working towards a resolution.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS?
Going through a divorce or legal separation can make anyone feel isolated, stressed, and overwhelmed. Any person going through the process can feel uncertain of where to turn for advice and support. Collaborative Divorce cases are not like conventional divorce case processes; therefore, it is important to understand the process to reach the best solution, while protecting your rights, and upholding your responsibilities.
The following are key steps both parties must take throughout a Collaborative Divorce process.
The parties will first sign a Collaborative Participation Agreement;
The parties will assemble their team of professionals which can include therapists, psychologists, child specialists, and financial specialists;
The parties’ goals, interests, and needs will be shared with the team and begin brainstorming ideas to resolve the case;
The parties will work with the team members to reach a resolution that fits the needs of the parties and their family;
The attorneys for the parties will draft a settlement agreement that captures the various resolutions and the parties will sign the settlement agreement; and,
Once the statutory deadlines have been met for filing, the attorneys will work together to get a final resolution through a final order of divorce in court.
THE BENEFITS OF A COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE
The main difference between a Collaborative Divorce and a traditional divorce is that in a Collaborative Divorce, both parties take a pledge to reach a mutual agreement before taking the divorce case to a court. Here, both parties maintain control of the outcome of their cases, instead of leaving matters up to a judge to decide on their behalf. To accomplish this, both parties have to provide written consent to be part of the process that leads to a collaborative resolution not involving litigation in the court system. A key benefit to the Collaborative Process is to assist the parties to transition to their new roles as co-parents and develop effective relationships between the separating parties. Many participants also find that they experience more closure and more control over their circumstances. With the help of financial professionals, each party obtains sufficient knowledge and understanding to make important financial decisions regarding support. The financial professional can also run projections and advise parties on whether to keep or sell the marital home, how to save for retirement, how to save for college, and how to pay off debt. In typical litigation, financial professionals may not be part of the team or may only be used for specific aspects like business valuation and the professional only looks at one perspective rather than looking at the entire picture for both parties.
Any person going through a divorce understands that even under the best circumstances, it is difficult to achieve open communication as the relationship comes to an end. Still, keeping open communication with the other party is a critical part of reaching a mutually successful divorce resolution. With a Collaborative Divorce, both parties will have an opportunity to meet face-to-face. Together with their team, both parties can cultivate an honest exchange of sentiments and information. They can also express their individual needs and any expectations they may have. When parties are successfully able to discuss their issues, solving even difficult major impasses can be possible.
When entering into a Collaborative Divorce, separating parties can rest assured that this process is relatively cost-effective when compared to a process that involves taking the case to court. When it comes to divorce cases solved through the court-system, the costs can be unpredictable and significant. The discovery process in litigation can be costly and time consuming. In a Collaborative Divorce case, all relevant documents and statements are shared with the financial professional and attorneys rather than each attorney needing to produce duplicative information. Also, litigation costs tend to escalate quickly when the parties cannot communicate effectively, and the parties cannot control their tense emotions.
Overall, with a Collaborative Divorce, it is easy to expect less trauma stemming from the life-changing circumstances a divorce can cause. With a Collaborative Divorce, both parties will play an active role in the entire process, and they will also have a team of professionals that can help guide them through the difficult aspects of the case. With this type of case, both parties can feel satisfied in knowing they were able to work together to make their transition to a new life easier, especially if there are children involved.
Collaborative Divorce Cases Involving Children
In many divorce cases, divorcing parties may have a difficult deciding on a time sharing schedule for each parent to spend time with their children. In the State of Virginia, the law mandates that courts act in the best interests of the child when determining an arrangement for custody and visitation. Whether the divorce case is contested or uncontested, divorce court judges will always base their decision on what arrangement is best for the child. If neither party has a history of child abuse, domestic violence, drug abuse, or other lifestyle situation that can be harmful to the child’s upbringing, Virginia courts will make arrangements that allow both parties to play a significant role in the lives of their children. Unfortunately, the court system is never perfect and Judges often make decisions based on limited information because of the rules of Court. The best way to decide custody and parenting time decisions is for parents to decide as no one knows their children better than the parents themselves. No judge can make better decisions than parents, but if the parents are unable to come to a resolution; then, the court will make a decision and may award primary custody of the children and limited parenting time to the other parent. Judges can decide what is in the best interests of the children regardless of what the parents ask for and these arrangements can be against the wishes of one or both parties.
Responsible, reasonable co-parenting is the ideal situation for separating families. When parents are separating, however, it can be difficult for them to reach an agreement when it comes to the upbringing of their children. Their history can cause difficulties with communication and differences in opinions,. Parenting involves many important decisions where both parents will want to play an active and present role. These important decisions include medical and dental care decisions, religious upbringing decisions, and education decisions. With the Collaborative Divorce process, separating parties can reach an agreement with regard to the custody or visitation of their children and handle these most difficult decisions both currently and in the future. As contentious as these issues may be, the Collaborative Divorce process allows parents to work together, and in support of their children.
VIRGINIA COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE LAWYERS
In a Collaborative Divorce process, both parties can voice their opinions and know that they will be heard. They will have the support of their own attorney to advise them during the process, provide pros and cons, provide information regarding what the Court may do in a similar situation, and help them to rebuild their new life. Through this process, both parties agree to work collaboratively to reach a mutual agreement. Collaborative Divorce is a process that allows both parties to control the entirety of their divorce, make their own decisions, and potentially mend a part of the broken relationship. Since this process avoids exhaustive litigation and a court-decided outcome, both parties can retain control of their life and what is best for their individual lives and their children.
NOVA Legal Professionals can help you with the Collaborative Divorce process to save you stress and legal fees during your divorce process. Read more about how we have helped our clients here.
If you want to speak with one of our Virginia divorce lawyers to discuss your case, reach out to us at either our Manassas and Fairfax locations to schedule.