If both you and your spouse have experienced collaborative attorneys, are committed to staying out of court, and take advantage of the other types of professionals which make sense for your situation, it is very likely you can reach a settlement which works for you. In studies done around the country, 85-90% of collaborative divorces reach settlement. We cannot and do not guarantee any particular outcome or that settlement will in fact be reached. However, because of the increased conflict and cost of traditional divorce, many couples find it worth the investment to see if a collaborative divorce process will work for them, before resorting to a more adversarial process.
In the collaborative divorce process you will have an attorney working with you every step of the way to make sure that your interests are addressed. You will also have a child specialist to help protect your children by uncovering your children’s needs and help formulate a parenting plan that works for your family.
There will also be an attorney working with your spouse, but that attorney has pledged not to take unilateral actions without notice that may negatively affect you.
No. Under lawyers’ rules of ethics, lawyers in the same firm are like a single lawyer. The firm cannot represent parties who may have “conflicting interests.” We can provide a list of highly competent collaborative attorneys in the area for you or your spouse to consider.
Yes—in a collaborative divorce process, the attorneys, child specialist help parents figure out a parenting plan that works for their children and family situation. They also help parents figure out how they will financially support their children in a way that makes sense for their unique circumstances.
When you begin to think that there’s at least a 50% chance that your marriage may end in divorce, and if you’re not in marriage counseling, it’s probably time to commit to some very hard work with a marriage counselor. If you begin to think there’s a 70-80% chance that your marriage may end in divorce, then you may want to speak with a collaborative attorney to learn more about healthy ways to transition out of a marriage that might be beyond recovery. It’s generally better to have information about the process of divorce even before you become 100% convinced that your marriage is ending in divorce.
Several things about the collaborative divorce proceedings can make them more efficient than traditional divorce. They are less formal. Communication lines are more open. Neutral consultants are used in instead competing expert witnesses. The attorneys use a client-centered, interest-based approach to negotiating disagreements, rather than an attorney-centered, positional-based approach to negotiating. For these reasons and others, collaborative divorce tends to cost less without sacrificing the quality of process and protection that people going through divorce want and need.
There are many differences, but the most noticeable ones are:
- There is no formal discovery, i.e. no depositions, “interrogatories” or “document requests.” The spouses agree to full and complete voluntary disclosure of all relevant information.
- The negotiation model used is the “interest-based” model instead of a “position-based” model.
- The attorneys in a collaborative divorce agree that they will never represent the spouses against each other in court proceedings if agreements on all issues are not reached and the issues need to be resolved in court proceedings. This protects the integrity of the process.
- The negotiations take place in “collaborative conferences” with the spouses, attorneys and any other appropriate professionals in the room together. This helps improve communication, saves time and money and promotes the “problem-solving” concepts used in the collaborative divorce model.
No. Lawyers’ rules of ethics prohibit one lawyer from representing “opposing” parties. Even if you and your spouse are getting along, in the eyes of the law, you still have “potentially conflicting interests” and cannot be represented by the same attorney.
Yes. Lawyers help you understand the legal consequences of your agreements and point out where pitfalls might lie, such as unforeseen tax consequences or legal ramifications, so you can take steps to mitigate risks now instead of later. We have seen many problems arise from agreements that were reached in good faith but not drafted or thought through. Down the road, they find themselves surprised or in conflict.
There are many divorce-lawyer websites in North Carolina that provide information about the matrimonial statutes and the rights and obligations of spouses going through divorce. It’s hard to get a lot from these websites, because specific answers about your rights require specific and detailed information about your particular circumstances. As part of the collaborative process we gather that specific and detailed information and then help you and your spouse understand the laws of North Carolina and how they apply to your situation.
There are basic “entitlements” described in the divorce laws of North Carolina. If you are a parent, you are entitled to continue to parent your child in some form or fashion. If you have marital property, you are entitled to have an “equitable” portion of the marital estate. If you earn little or no money and your spouse earns significantly more, you may be entitled to some spousal support. What you would get in a trial would depend on what county you are in and what judge was hearing your case.
No one can say until you reach an agreement or have a court hearing how much alimony you will have to pay. There is no formula for alimony in North Carolina, and, under the matrimonial statutes, alimony is left to the sole discretion of the trial judge. If an attorney tells you what you will have to pay in alimony, it is simply that attorney’s opinion.
The marital residence will often have special significance, possibly because it and the neighborhood are familiar to the children, or because it is a major asset in the marital estate, or because it represents stability in a stormy time of life. When the house is of special significance, the attorneys in the collaborative process will help develop options for how to handle the house so that, in the end, you are satisfied that your needs have been met.
Only a judge has the authority to grant a divorce. However, it is not necessary to have a judge determine child custody, child support, alimony, and the equitable distribution of property. All of these things can be decided by private agreement in non-court, collaborative proceedings.
We bill hourly. So the cost of a collaborative divorce can vary widely. We have an online evaluation survey called the MCSI Part A that helps us assess whether the collaborative process is suitable for a couple, and, if so, the range of services likely to be required. Please contact us if you’d like to complete the survey and set up an appointment to understand better the divorce options and the likely costs of the various options.