A collaborative divorce is a process where both parties are able to negotiate the terms of their divorce with the help of collaboratively trained professionals, such as an accountant or child specialist. Through this process, there is no need for the pointing of fingers or mudslinging that might accompany traditional litigation. In 2014, the Michigan legislature passed the Uniform Collaborative Law Act, allowing for this non-traditional process to resolve child-related and financial issues resulting in a divorce outside of the courtroom, giving people an alternative approach to reaching their legal goals.
Our Empowered Divorce Source attorneys are professionally trained in collaborative divorce. Shelley Kester, our founding attorney, was among the original group of attorneys first trained in the State of Michigan in collaborative divorce, prior to Michigan’s adoption of its Collaborative Divorce court rule.
Court involvement can often result in increased stress, higher legal fees, and delays. One of the advantages of a collaborative divorce is that it can greatly reduce the legal fees and stress accompanied with such a life transition. The collaborative process allows the parties to focus on what is beneficial to their families, and not the fight of a traditional divorce. The collaborative process also allows the parties to avoid having a judge, who is less familiar with the facts, to decide what is best for their family, promoting open communication and trust, important skills as the parties move forward. In addition, one of the hallmarks of a collaborative divorce is the focus on a respectful process, rather than the fight.
Starting the Process
At the initiation of a collaborative divorce, a participation agreement is signed by the parties and their attorneys. This agreement is a commitment to openly exchange information and to work to genuinely negotiate an agreement outside of court. Agreements are typically reached through a series of sessions, led not by attorneys, but by a mental health professional, who the attorneys have selected. With our firm’s years of experience, and statewide relationships, we are able to partner with other collaboratively-trained professionals and guide our clients through the process for their best outcome.
Once the participation agreement has been signed, the parties will meet in a joint session with the professional leading the process and each party’s attorney. Each session has an agenda focused on the issues to be addressed. When it’s working well, each party has an opportunity to talk about what their needs are, and the team works to come to solutions that optimally serve both parties.
Once all issues have been resolved, the parties and their attorneys will work together to prepare the documents to submit to the court so the court may adopt their agreement and finalize their divorce.
What If We Don’t Agree?
At any point during the collaborative process, should it become clear that it will not be successful, a party may choose to withdraw from the collaborative process and file a traditional complaint for divorce. In such an event, both attorneys must withdraw from the case and are precluded from representing either party in the traditional divorce proceeding.
We are proud that our Wilson Kester attorneys are specifically trained in collaborative divorce, and that we are able to guide you through the divorce process in this manner. Contact us if you believe the collaborative process will best put you on your path to obtaining your better life.