Cooperative Divorce Arbitration: Best of Both Worlds

Cooperative Divorce Arbitration: Best of Both Worlds

Two people with folded hands on a divorce decree with keys in the middle.


We at RLC are dedicated to out-of-court solutions for families.  We particularly like cooperative divorce and collaborative law.  There are so many benefits:

  • You are in charge of the outcome.
  • A judge and their process does not control your family.
  • We can move at your pace—fast or slow.
  • The agreements are better quality.
  • Each of you are more likely to keep to the agreements.
  • The children really are the most important focus.
  • The whole professional team is supporting your family.
  • If your family has complex financial or family circumstances, you get the most honed and precise agreement possible.


However, not every family is a good fit for Collaborative law.  That system requires that if the family can’t reach their own agreements then they have to get all new attorneys, all new experts, and basically start the whole process all over again.  If a family is struggling with sobriety, neurodiversity, or mental health concerns, then Collaborative law might not be the best choice because they would lose their attorney if they couldn’t reach agreements.  To make matters worse, these are often the families that benefit the most from an out-of-court system.  Therefore, attorneys in Colorado have come up with an in-between option: Cooperative Arbitration.


What is Cooperative Arbitration?


Families who choose to use this system agree at the beginning that they will stay out of the state court process no matter what.  They agree to try to settle without interference using the collaborative model.  However, if they are not able to reach agreements on certain aspects of their case, then they agree to use an arbiter to break the tie.


An arbiter is a family law attorney who basically agrees to serve as a private judge for your family if you can’t reach agreements yourself.  Because we are using a cooperative system instead of the true collaborative system, you do not lose your attorneys if you need to go to arbitration.  All your experts and all of your attorneys can stay and help your family.


There are differences between judges and arbiters.  One is that we can model your arbitration in the best way to fit your family.  If there is no need for people to come testify when they can write a letter, we can do that.  If its better to submit everything in writing, we can do that.  Another difference is that these arbiters are very skilled and knowledgeable family law attorneys who will be able to mold creative solutions for your family.  Many state court judges do not understand family law, and the complexities that many families have either financially or emotionally.  These arbiters do understand all of that, and most importantly, how everything affects your children.   There are other detailed differences, you should be sure to ask your attorney what they mean.


How is it the same and different from Collaborative Law?

  • Same: Both systems use trained collaborative attorneys, collaborative neutrals, and other experts.


  • Same: You have the opportunity to make creative plans that fit your family on your timeline.


  • Same: The professional team supports the family as a whole, instead of trying to destroy anyone.


  • Same: Both parties have to agree to use this system.


  • Different:
    • In full collaborative divorce, if you can’t reach agreements yourself then you must get a new professional team. This means new attorneys, new experts, new everything, and start all over again.


  • In cooperative divorce arbitration, if you can’t reach agreements yourself then your pre-agreed arbiter steps in to make the final decisions. You will keep the agreements that you’ve made, but they will decide anything you haven’t been able to agree about.  For example, if you agree about parenting time, but not child support, then the arbiter will only make decisions on child support.


While there are some other differences, these are the most notable differences between the two systems.  If you want to learn more about Collaborative Divorce, please visit the following websites:


Our Page:

Foothills Collaborative Divorce Professionals:

Colorado Collaborative Divorce Professionals:

International Association of Collaborative Professionals:


How is it different from traditional litigation?

Business man

  • Same: you can reach agreements without a hearing before the judge. In traditional litigation, you can reach agreements through mediation so that there is never a hearing in court.  This is the most common way that people in our firm finish their divorces.


  • Same: You get a divorce at the end.


  • Different: If either side does not agree to do cooperative or collaborative divorce, then you will default to the court system.


  • Different: The attorney on the other side does not want to “beat” you in any contest. In cooperative arbitration, we don’t believe that there is a winner or a loser.  Instead, the professionals are there to support your children.


  • Different: emotional cost. We find that often there is a higher level of conflict and anxiety in a traditional divorce.  The emotional cost of figuring out agreements yourself is far less with a cooperative system.


  • Depends: Cost. Both litigation and collaborative/cooperative processes can be more or less costly depending on the people and the time needed.  In our experience, costs are typically less with the cooperative/collaborative systems.


The important takeaway is that you and your spouse have control over how you get a divorce.  If you would like to learn more, CONTACT US today to schedule a consultation with an attorney.

Woman reading a large book behind the lady of justice statute.

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