In a traditional dissolution of marriage, the parties will be ordered to mediation.
At mediation a neutral mediator will attempt to assist the parties in reaching some type of agreement on some or all of the outstanding issues. If the parties are represented by attorneys then those attorneys will also be present but each party is entering the mediation trying to reach an agreement that is most aligned with that individual's interests in the dissolution of marriage.
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement in mediation then decisions regarding the parties' lives is left up to a judge, who after hearing testimony and reviewing evidence, will determine what he or she thinks is most equitable or best for a given family. There is very little control for the parties once a case is handed to a judge to decide. Usually one or both parties will leave this process with a feeling of "loss."
However, what if it did not have to be this way? What if it was possible for the parties to attempt to align themselves with the idea of reaching an agreement that was in the family's best interest? After all, at some point in the past the parties were a family, and if children are involved, the parties will always be a "family," even if not in the most traditional sense. This is where Collaborative Dissolution of Marriage may be a useful method.
In a Collaborative Dissolution of Marriage there is more than just the parties, their attorneys, or a mediator trying to reach an agreement.
There is a team of professionals surrounding this family in an effort to reach an agreement that will meet the parties' needs and allow them to be truly invested in the process in the hopes of developing a desire to make this agreement work. A typical "team" includes the parties, each party's attorney, a mental health professional, and a financial professional. Typically, when parties agree to participate in the collaborative process each party's attorney also agrees to be fully invested in the process. This typically means that part of the agreement is that if the parties are unable to resolve the dissolution of marriage through the collaborative process, neither attorney will be able to continue representing either party in a traditional dissolution of marriage proceeding. This will ensure the attorneys are aligned with the clients in attempting to invest in the collaborative process to reach an agreement that best meets the needs of a given family.
The other members of the team also serve a valuable purpose. The mental health professional is not there to counsel either party through the process. However, the mental health professional is there to assist in facilitating healthy discussion and to assist the parties in addressing tough issues in a healthy manner. The goal is to achieve healthy dialogue that will lead to a healthy separation and future, particularly if there are children involved.
The financial professional can assist in dividing assets and liabilities.
The financial professional should be someone that can assist the parties in understanding tax consequences of different financial distributions and can assist in making suggestions that will lead the parties to reach their ultimate goal in the most effective way possible. In addition, some financial professionals may be able to assist in determining the value of a privately run business in order to make any necessary distributions of that business.
The collaborative law process is one that is fluid and works best when the parties are invested in the process.
Particularly when children are involved, parties may still need to communicate effectively in the future despite the marriage ending. In a collaborative dissolution of marriage case the parties will have the assistance of professionals to manage the emotional, financial, and legal issues, and the parties will learn how to navigate this new type of relationship, with the hope of starting and ending the process with effective communication Working together as a team the parties will be able to develop an agreement that will be in the best interest of all involved and will be able to do so with a team of professionals. After all, the parties to a dissolution of marriage know what is best for them and their family more than any other attorney, mediator or judge. The collaborative process allows the parties to take an active lead in dissolving their marriage with the support of a team of professionals.