What is Collaborative Divorce?

Man and woman sitting apart with man holding his wedding band in his hands

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Collaborative Divorce is a different way to get a divorce out of court.  You will be supported by settlement specialist professionals in order to reach the best result for your whole family.  Learn about how you can have a healthy and peaceful divorce so that you can move on with your life. 


When I first learned of collaborative divorce and my whole professional outlook changed.  I was a young attorney only a few years out of school.  There were no jobs in the recession so it was sink or swim.  I decided to do some dog paddling and start my own practice.  I fell into family law (more on that in another post) and was at my first family law conference in Vail.  I got a scholarship to attend, and was staying at the cheapest place I could find farther down the valley.  I had learned a lot about family law, and one of the biggest things is that court is almost never the answer for families. 


There was a session titled Collaborative Divorce given by the great Terri Harrington.  I was intrigued by the title and description, so I walked into the ballroom full of curiosity.  Terri started out talking about what I also had found: contentious litigation for families leads to the destruction of the family for a very long time, and often long term damage to the children.  She was preaching to the choir.  My eyes widened as a whole new world opened.  The way we practice collaborative divorce in Colorado has changed in the last eight years, and I’ve been an active member in that evolution.  Below is how we have found, through hundreds of cases and some learning the hard way, what works for us.


The fundamental elements of a Collaborative Divorce are the following:

  • The couple signs an agreement that they are going to settle their matter outside of the court process.
  • Each person hires a specially trained collaborative attorney. This attorney will not go to court with them if they fall out of the collaborative process.  This encourages the attorney to find solutions outside of court.  Find more about their role HERE.
  • We agree on a Collaborative Divorce Facilitator (neutral) who is like a mediator plus. Find more about their role HERE.
  • If a Financial Neutral is appropriate we will engage their services (this is optional, you can learn more about their role HERE.)
  • We complete all disclosures, agreements, and documents before filing with the court (unless there is a pressing reason to file).


The basic timeline of a Collaborative Divorce is:

  1. One or both of you reach out to collaborative attorneys for a consultation on the process and to determine if it is right for your family.


  1. Both of you agree that you are going to do Collaborative Divorce and each of you hire your attorney.


  1. The attorneys talk about the family and which neutrals we think would be a good fit.


  1. The couple talks to the recommended neutral and decides on that person.


  1. We schedule our first group meeting with all the professionals and participants. You will probably already have met with your attorney once or several times in preparation.


  1. At the first meeting we talk about expectations, process, and what we need to do first. If we need any agreements right away about finances or parenting we will discuss and agree to those.


  1. We will schedule the next meeting and determine what each person needs to do between now and then.


  1. At the appropriate time we will get all financial disclosures, and reach agreements on the division of assets and debts, maintenance, parenting time, decision making, and child support.


  1. We will have as many, or as few, meetings as your family needs. I’ve done a collaborative case in one meeting, and I’ve done them over 20 meetings. 


  1. Once we’ve reached final agreement the attorneys will finalize the documents and then everyone will sign. These will then be full and final agreements and you will be functionally finished with the process.


  1. The documents will get filed with the court. The attorneys will ensure that all procedures are followed so that you never have to go to the courthouse.  After about 91 days we will get the decree and the attorneys will pass that along to you.  Then you will be formally divorced.


Please continue to read the remaining parts of the series on Collaborative Divorce for more information. 

If you think that Collaborative Divorce is right for your family, all three attorneys at The Rutherford Law Center can help you reach your goals.  Contact us by clicking the call or contact button at the top of the page to talk to an attorney about whether Collaborative Divorce is right for you.

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