Collaborative divorce — a process that empowers

Divorce is never easy, and can often feel overwhelming and forbidding.  People who have gone through a litigated divorce have described it as a harrowing experience.  They spend large amounts of money, time, and energy on the court process and often are unsatisfied with the outcome.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to litigated divorce that makes the experience of ending a marriage much less painful:   Collaborative Divorce.

Most people who use the collaborative process feel that they have reached a fair and equitable resolution at the end.  Moreover, parties often find this process to be more empowering than traditional divorce.

Here’s what makes Collaborative Divorce a less stressful divorce option:

Collaborative Divorce begins with each spouse and their lawyer agreeing, via a formal Participation Agreement, that they will resolve all issues in a structured, out-of-court procedure, instead of through court litigation.

The Collaborative Divorce process strives to ensure that each person in the relationship is “heard” and that all of their concerns are addressed in an open and thoughtful manner.

  1. All financial matters, including information regarding income, property, accounts, retirement and all other assets are exchanged transparently. A neutral financial expert can be appointed to ensure that all finances are fully disclosed and equitably distributed.
  2. Collaborative Divorce allows for maintaining confidentiality in the couple’s private life. Instead of depositions, open court hearings, trials and motions, all negotiations are held in private meetings, until a settlement has been reached.
  3. Collaborative Divorce has the goal of helping couples maintain an amicable relationship for better co-parenting after the divorce.
  4. Parties who have gone through the Collaborative Divorce process express less bitterness and emotional pain than those who have gone through a traditional divorce.

If you are contemplating or facing divorce, consider Collaborative Divorce as a less stressful, more private and respectful means of ending your marriage.

About the blogger:

Hesper Schleiderer-Hardy, Esq., is an attorney with Childs, Rundlett, Fifield & Altshuler, LLC. She has devoted her career to representing clients in family matters, estate planning, and probate litigation. Hesper has been serving Maine families as a Guardian ad Litem since 2007, working with children of all ages. She received training as a Collaborative Divorce Attorney in 2008 and is a founding member and Board Member of the Maine Collaborative Law Alliance. She is also a member of the Family Law Section of the Maine State Bar Association, a member of the Cumberland County Bar Association and the York County Bar Association, and a Board Member of Maine Odyssey of the Mind. A Maine native, Hesper received her JD from Northeastern University School of Law and her undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College.

Things to keep in mind to make your collaborative divorce successful

In October, I attended the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) 17th Annual Networking and Educational Forum.   One of the sessions I attended was Inspiration and Ideas for Creating and Sustaining a Remarkable Collaborative Practice presented by Ron Ousky (a collaborative law pioneer) and his paralegal Megan  Yates.

The gist of the presentation was that Collaborative Law is a wonderful process that focuses on interests rather than positions — if clients enter into it with a collaborative mindset. The presentation addressed these important questions:

What do clients need to know to embrace Collaborative Law?

How can clients let go of their positions to reach their highest vision?

How can clients see Collaborative Law as an opportunity, rather than a risk?

Here are some of the things I learned that could help you decide if Collaborative Law could work for you and your spouse and, if you proceed with Collaborative Divorce, how to make it as successful as possible:

  • Begin with the end in mind.  Think about where you want to finish from the beginning.                       Visualize what your future looks like after divorce.
  • Always focus on the big picture. Again, keep your goals in mind. Try not to get side-tracked by the small issues.   Once you know the big picture, you can deal with the details of how to get there.
  • Be candid about what you can/can’t bring to the experience.   What can you and your spouse each contribute to the process to help it succeed?  Sometimes we fail because we push ourselves into things we are not ready for.  If you’re not ready, that’s okay.
  • Don’t make it about fighting.  Arguments don’t change people’s minds.  For Collaborative Divorce to be effective,  you need to have open, non-defensive discussions with all parties involved, including your spouse and their attorney.
  • Trust your instincts and experience.  You know yourself and you know your spouse and what will/won’t work for the two of you.  Being realistic about that with your attorney will save time and money and reduce stress.
  • Be clear.  Communicate your knowledge and desires to your attorney, so they can help you make decisions that are best for you and your family.
  • Be committed to the process. One of the tenets of Collaborative Law is that if the process is not working there is a requirement of withdrawal by the collaborative attorneys before starting a divorce in court. Your commitment and confidence in your ability to resolve your own case will maximize the possibility of Collaborative Law working for you.

Collaborative Law can help families reach amazing outcomes.  When deciding whether Collaborative Divorce is right for you, keep the above points in mind.  That way you’ll be prepared to bring your best self to the process.

About the Blogger:

Jane Clayton is a partner at Vafiades, Brountas & Kominsky, LLP. Jane focuses her practice on all aspects of Family Law including Collaborative Law. Admitted to practice in 1988 both in Maine and before the U.S. District Court, District of Maine, Jane is a member of the Maine State and Penobscot Bar Associations. She is currently a Board Member of Maine Collaborative Law Alliance. She is also a member of the Family Law Section of the Maine State Bar Association. Jane was previously the Chair of the Fee Arbitration Commission, Chair of Fee Arbitration Panel IV, Chair of the Penobscot County Law Library Committee, a member of the State Court Library Committee, a Board Member of Equality Maine Foundation, a Board Member of Bangor Area Visiting Nurses/Hospice of Eastern Maine, a Board Member of Pine Tree Legal Assistance and a Board Member of Maine Association of Mediators.

Jane was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1961, and grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Jane earned a B.A. (with high distinction) in Political Science from the University of Maine in 1983. She received her J.D. from the Villanova University School of Law in 1986. She moved to Maine in 1986 and currently lives in Veazie with her wife, dog and cat. In her time away from the office she enjoys creating stained glass panels, photography, movies, reading, and spending time with family and friends.