If you’re considering collaborative divorce in California, here’s what you need to know.
What is Collaborative Divorce in California?
Collaborative divorce is the same across the board, whether you’re in California or another state. A collaborative divorce is one in which both parties work together to reach a settlement that everyone finds reasonably satisfying. It’s a give-and-take negotiation process that results in the couple – not the judge – making the final decisions on big issues.
Why Do People Choose Collaborative Divorce in California?
Some people choose the collaborative divorce route because it’s faster, cheaper, and in most cases, less stressful than litigation. In a divorce where the couple can’t reach their own agreements, there’s a lot of back-and-forth between attorneys – and there are court dates where all the parties and their lawyers have to show up and argue before the judge. The judge makes a final decision, and while judges do their best to be fair and impartial, someone is bound to leave the courtroom feeling like they’ve lost.
The best way to get what you want from your divorce is to collaborate with your spouse.
You can use mediation in a collaborative divorce. Mediation is often a great way to help people see eye-to-eye (or at least find some common ground) during divorce, and working with a mediator can take some of the pressure off each of you because the mediator is your go-between.
Related: Divorce mediation checklist
Do You Have Your Own Lawyer in a Collaborative Divorce in California?
You hire your own attorney and your spouse hires his or her own attorney in a collaborative divorce. Your attorney will be watching out for your best interests along the way, and that means she’ll encourage you to define what you want from your divorce and see what you can use to negotiate to get it.
How to Reach Agreements With Your Spouse
When you’re divorcing the person you’ve been married to, it might feel like cooperation is the last thing you want to do. However, because it’s usually the best way to get what you want from your divorce, it’s in your best interest – and your soon-to-be ex’s best interest – to try to cooperate as best you can. You’ll have to decide on major issues, including child custody (if you have children), spousal support if one of you is asking for it, and how to divide your property fairly.
Negotiation is part common sense and part tact. When you want something, you can’t demand it – you have to plan carefully and be tactful in your delivery. (That’s why many people choose to use a mediator who can carry messages back and forth while smoothing out the process.) You have to set ground rules for negotiation before you start – and you and your spouse both have to agree to them, too. Some good ground rules for negotiation include:
- Be prepared to give and take
- Be cordial to each other and check your feelings at the door
- Avoid ultimatums
- Avoid giving each other deadlines
- Stay cool – don’t let your emotions get the best of you
Your attorney can help you with the finer points, too. The bottom line is that you need to treat divorce negotiations like a business transaction – essentially, that’s what this type of negotiation is.
How to Know if Collaborative Divorce is Right for You
Collaborative divorce isn’t for everyone. It may not be a good idea if you’ve experienced domestic violence, for example, or you have other issues that will prevent you from cooperating with your spouse.
If you’re thinking about pursuing a collaborative divorce in California, your best bet is to talk to your lawyer. She’ll ask you some questions and help you determine whether you and your spouse are good candidates for these types of negotiations.