If you’re seeking a divorce, you may want to consider working with collaborative divorce attorneys in Arizona. Many couples in the state are increasingly turning to collaborative divorce as their preferred alternative dispute resolution (ADR) option. With this approach, couples can quickly and reasonably dissolve their marriages without ever having to go to court. Our clients often describe their experiences with collaborative divorce as “dignified,” “amicable,” and “respectful.” If you’re wondering if a collaborative divorce is right for you, call us today to learn more.
What Is Collaborative Divorce?
A collaborative divorce is a legal procedure in which couples can settle all the aspects of their divorce through negotiation and mediation, avoiding any courtroom bickering or defamation. This process entails couples working together to come to an agreement on crucial issues such as the division of property and debt, child custody and support, as well as spousal support.
This type of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is similar to divorce mediation in that both spouses agree to work together to reach a settlement that is satisfactory to both parties. This process is guided by collaborative law, which is a set of principles and practices designed to promote cooperation and open communication between divorcing spouses.
Collaborative Divorce vs. Traditional Divorce
Unlike traditional divorce proceedings, which can be adversarial and confrontational, collaborative divorce is a more peaceful and cooperative approach. The goal of collaborative divorce is to reach a settlement that is fair to both parties while minimizing the emotional and financial costs of divorce.
To begin the collaborative divorce process, both spouses must agree to participate and commit to working together through the entire process. The process typically involves a team of professionals, including lawyers, financial experts, and mental health professionals, who work together to help the couple reach a settlement that meets their needs.
Once a settlement is reached, it is formalized in a settlement agreement that is submitted to the court for approval. The court then issues a consent decree, which makes the settlement legally binding.
Can You Represent Yourself in Collaborative Divorce?
Although possible in mediation or litigation (although not necessarily recommended), that is not how collaborative law works. We must follow Arizona Family Law Procedure Rule 67.1 in all collaborative law proceedings. Under Rule 67.1, spouses participating in the collaborative divorce process each have a collaborative lawyer experienced in family law. Remember, these are still parties in a divorce. So each spouse has a lawyer for confidential legal advice, guidance, and strategy throughout negotiations and in drafting the final settlement agreement to be filed with the court.
Can A Spouse Be Ordered To Participate in Collaborative Divorce Proceedings?
Spouses cannot be ordered into collaborative law proceedings over their objections. For true collaboration, participation has to be voluntary. The spouses must be unified in their willingness to collaborate in resolving all legal issues in the divorce.
If spouses choose this process, then both must sign a collaborative divorce participation agreement. This is an important decision and should not be done on a whim. They are expected to adhere to this agreement at every stage of the process. In signing, they promise to commit themselves to resolve every issue in their divorce with finality by negotiation, compromise, and agreement. A key principle of the participation agreement is to not litigate any aspect of their divorce. Staying out of court is essential!
What Happens If You Cannot Come To An Agreement in A Collaborative Divorce?
Despite their best efforts at negotiating solutions, it is possible a full agreement is just not going to happen. Spouses could get hung up on payment of spousal maintenance, for example, or issues surrounding parenting. The contested issue will be litigated in court. And that changes everything.
If either collaborative divorce lawyer moves the case toward litigation, then both lawyers are disqualified. The lawyers and their respective law firms must withdraw from representation. Obviously, this means the parties must obtain new counsel. Divorce litigation proceeds to the courtroom with the new attorneys.
Could There Be A Partial Agreement in A Collaborative Divorce?
Yes. Although the goal of collaborative divorce is a full settlement without court intervention, partial settlement is possible.
In the event, some agreements are made but not all, what was resolved and agreed to is finalized and signed as a partial settlement agreement. As with any divorce, if spouses do not arrive at a parenting plan agreement in their collaborative divorce, then a family law judge must determine child custody and parenting time for them. The parties understand and agree that they will have to litigate outstanding issues at trial.
Who Should Be Your Collaborative Divorce Attorney in Arizona?
Alongside each spouse is an attorney equally committed to the collaborative divorce process. To maintain the spirit of cooperative negotiation, no one goes into this with a plan to litigate if they don’t get their way. That includes the attorneys!
Are You A Good Candidate For A Collaborative Divorce in Arizona?
To answer this question, let’s consider a few pros and cons.
What Are The Advantages Of Collaborative Divorce?
- Non-Adversarial. The collaborative law process is non-adversarial. Therefore, most parties experience less stress (as opposed to litigating in court). They feel more in control because they are creating “their” settlement. And because they take ownership of the divorce judgment, they find it easier to follow. Parents who develop a parenting plan together are often more willing to comply with its terms.
- Private and Confidential. The family’s privacy is preserved and information exchanged during the collaborative process is kept confidential. (What if one or both parties decide to litigate an issue? As with settlement negotiations generally, the information provided during the collaborative process cannot be used as evidence in court.)
- Cost Savings and Less Time. Of course, every divorce involves unique circumstances that may require special efforts. Still, the collaborative divorce process typically costs less overall and takes less time. The parties share the expense of hiring professional advisors on specified matters, such as a child custody evaluator.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Collaborative Divorce?
- Litigation Attorney. Should the divorce proceedings to court, both parties will need to hire new attorneys from other law firms. A collaborative lawyer cannot litigate for the client in court and must withdraw from the case. The former client must then find new divorce representation.
- Other ADR. If spouses have limited financial resources or little property to divide, then other forms of ADR are more suitable. Consider divorce mediation and divorce settlement.
- Non-Negotiable. Collaborative divorce is not suitable when the spouses’ emotional pain makes negotiation impossible.
- Adversarial. Collaborative divorce is not a battleground. If either spouse is looking for a fight, then this process will likely be a waste of time and resources.
Instead of battling to win, spouses work together with their attorneys beside a team of trained professionals.
Collaborative Divorce Attorneys and Your Team of Experts
A benefit of collaborative divorce is the team approach. The spouses are supported by a professional team of nonparty participants who remain neutral. In the event the collaborative law process breaks down, these nonparty professionals cannot be engaged by either party in any subsequent litigation.
Any collaborative divorce might involve one or more qualified experts who advise both spouses on specific matters, such as pension valuation or income potential. Depending on the matters to be settled, the roster of impartial professionals may include a child custody evaluator, mental health professional, and a financial neutral or accountant who educates the participants on the financial implications of their divorce. This team offers up professional opinions, explanations, reports and data relevant to each issue in the divorce. They help spouses make important decisions together.
Your Steps To Collaborative Divorce in Arizona
If you are wondering how to get a collaborative divorce, these are the basic steps to collaborative divorce for you and your spouse:
1. Sign the Collaborative Divorce Participation Agreement.
The collaborative divorce participation agreement must comply with the requirements of Rule 67.1(d):
- Be in writing;
- Be signed by the parties;
- State the parties’ intention to resolve a collaborative matter through a collaborative law process under these rules;
- Describe the nature and scope of the matter;
- Identify the collaborative lawyer who represents each party in the process; and
- Contain a statement by each collaborative lawyer confirming the lawyer’s representation of a party in the collaborative law process.
By signing the participation agreement, you and your spouse (and both attorneys) commit to certain core principles and promise not to violate these commitments.
What are participation pledges?
The keystone pledge is to negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement without using litigation. Additionally, the spouses agree to:
- Engage in open communication and information sharing;
- Share the cost of any experts or third-party advisors;
- Create shared solutions that consider their highest priorities; and
- Act in good faith and with integrity.
This spirit of cooperation is essential!
2. List All Legal Issues in Your Divorce.
There will be many issues over asset and debt division, spousal maintenance, child support, and a parenting plan. (Who has legal decision-making? How will parenting time and vacations be scheduled? What about grandparent visitation?).
As a resource, our Arizona Divorce Handbook will help you understand every aspect of divorce.
3. Select your Collaborative Divorce Support Team.
Your collaborative support team might include a business valuation expert, vocational expert, child therapist, and others.
4. Consult Your Collaborative Divorce Attorney.
Each spouse engages in private consultations with his or her collaborative divorce lawyer.
5. Begin Negotiations.
The spouses with their attorneys negotiate in collaborative joint sessions – as many as it takes. This process continues until all issues are resolved through compromise and agreement. You or your spouse may break out from any joint session, as needed, to speak privately with counsel, divorce coach, or therapist.
6. Settlement Agreement.
The attorneys draft the settlement agreement and both parties sign it.
7. Divorce Filed.
The signed settlement agreement along with a joint petition for an uncontested divorce is filed with the Clerk of the Court along with any related documents. Absent any objection, the judge will sign a consent decree incorporating the parties’ agreement.
There is one more thing we need to talk about.
Can A Party Terminate The Collaborative Divorce Process Before Settlement?
Yes. There are several ways the collaborative divorce process can terminate prematurely:
- One party may terminate the process without cause by giving written notice to the other party that the process has ended.
- A party initiates divorce litigation.
- A party discharges his or her lawyer or, alternatively, that lawyer withdraws from further representation. (Note: The collaborative divorce process will continue if, within 30 days, the party engages a successor collaborative lawyer.)
- The parties include a provision in their participation agreement that specifies an additional method of concluding the process.
Contact Our Collaborative Divorce Lawyers Near You
Before considering a collaborative divorce, do some research on your own. When you’re ready to talk, call us at 602-548-3400. Collaborative divorce is not for everyone. But it might be the perfect solution for you and your spouse. The team here at Stewart Law Group has years of experience helping Arizona residents go through the divorce process helping them come to the best possible resolution for themselves and their families. Contact our office today to set up a free initial consultation and see how we can help you. 602-548-3400
See What Our Clients Have To Say About Our Collaborative Divorce Lawyers Near You
“Certainly no one wants to go through a divorce, but I am so grateful to my attorney, Robert Howard and the rest of the team at Stewart Law Group for their care, support, and professional legal work in resolving my case. From the very beginning, I was provided with resources that educated me about the process, protecting my interests, and relieving a great deal of fear and anxiety. I received sound advice at every step, and communication was great! I would recommend Robert Howard and the Stewart Law Group to anyone who finds themselves faced with the end of their marriage.”
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Consider Collaborative Divorce Attorneys in Arizona for a More Peaceful Divorce Experience
If you’re looking for a more peaceful and cooperative way to dissolve your marriage in Arizona, collaborating with divorce attorneys might be the best option for you. Collaborative divorce has proven to be a very desirable alternative dispute resolution (ADR) option for many couples in the state. Working with collaborative divorce attorneys in Arizona will enable you to reach a settlement that is satisfactory to both parties while minimizing the emotional and financial costs of divorce. Collaborative divorce lawyers in Arizona have extensive experience and expertise in guiding spouses through the collaborative divorce process. Contact us today to learn more about collaborative divorce and how we can help you through this difficult time.