Have you seen the television ads and other media, hyping the use of a “collaborative divorce?” These ads appear throughout the Maryland area, including Howard County, Montgomery County, Carroll County, Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County and beyond.
The promise is a kinder, gentler alternative to the traditional divorce model, right?
It’s time to learn the facts. Collaborative divorce is a contractual model where all of the participants literally sign a contract to terminate their marriage and resolve 100% of all of the issues generated in the divorce process by those who have been “collaboratively trained,” which essentially is nothing more than sitting through a few days of either free or low cost training sessions with others who have already been “collaboratively trained.” If it is sounding a bit like a pyramid structure, read on.
What is a collaborative divorce, and do I want one? It is essentially a fraternity created on an international level, trying to get folks to buy into a specific mediation process. Why do I say a fraternity? I say that because all of the professionals need to first be “collaboratively trained” before being allowed through the gates to work on a collaborative case.
After signing a contract to begin the collaborative process, a “collaborative team” is created. This could include parenting coaches, financial professionals, real estate professionals, mediators and others.
You may be asking yourself how much does this process cost, and you would be very right to ask that question. There is rarely a collaborative case costing less than $25,000-$50,000, making it the most expensive dispute resolution process in the entire family law system.
Is it worth it? You tell me. Within the collaborative process, there are two undercurrents. First, there is a presumption that everyone is telling the truth at all times and is geared towards the collective goal of a successful resolution to ending the marriage. That means there can be no litigation, rarely any documents generated under oath to ensure no one is lying, no depositions, no questions answers under oath and no court appearances are allowed whatsoever. Does this appeal to you? If you are the spouse who has something to hide, you can certainly hide it within the collaborative process.
What are the main disadvantages of a collaborative divorce? Two come to mind immediately. If you are the financially dependent spouse or the spouse who does not have all of the information and answers, you are at the mercy of your spouse as to whether they are telling the truth. That is one of the fundamental flaws to the collaborative process.
Second, and equally important, there is a contractual requirement that if the collaborative process fails, the attorneys and all professionals associated with the collaborative team must step down and abandon both parties to the collaborative process! That means you and your spouse have to hire a whole new team of lawyers and professionals to start the divorce process all over again from the beginning.
Yes, that also means that all of the money you and your spouse spent in the collaborative process was a total waste of money!
To date, there appear to be no independent statistics regarding the success or failure rate of the collaborative divorce process, although this is likely due to the fact that despite all of the advertising, there are extremely few collaborative divorces throughout the State of Maryland.
Is there anything done within the collaborative divorce process that cannot be achieved using the regular model of divorce? Of course not. That is the main reason why the collaborative divorce process makes little to no sense for most folks, except perhaps those who both possess equal information about all facts and issues regarding the marriage, financial and otherwise.
Think about it.
Anything that can be done within the collaborative process can be achieved better outside of the collaborative process. Mediators, financial professionals, experts and others are all more readily available within the traditional litigation model.
As a mediator and divorce attorney for more than twenty years, I practice the traditional model of a “collaborative” divorce everyday. However, if there is a disagreement that cannot be resolved, I continue to represent my client in the courtroom. If there is an issue of lack of disclosure, I file the appropriate documents to force the disclosure. It is a complete process, aimed to fully represent the interests of my clients.
Nevertheless, there are many spouses who insist on wanting to use the collaborative divorce process. In that event, SIEGELLAW does have your interests covered, as associate Michael Milstein is collaboratively trained. SIEGELLAW provides this service as to ensure that if the spouse of one of our valued clients insists on a collaborative process, we may provide service and assistance to our client.