How collaborative divorce works in Michigan
Marriage is a common experience for millions of people; in fact, more than 90 percent of people here in the U.S. marry by age 50. In addition to the realization of a childhood dream, perhaps, life goal or even family expectations, healthy marriages benefit a couple’s physical and mental health and provide their children with enduring stability and protection.
Unfortunately, divorce is also a common experience, especially in America where a couple divorces about every 36 seconds. While some divorces go smoothly, the notion of “harmonious divorce” may sound like a far-fetched fairy tale. More often than not, and regardless of a couple’s assets, the length of the union, or if children are involved, divorce is rarely pleasant and typically acrimonious.
Considering that a breakdown in communication—not infidelity—is the most common reason couples give for seeking divorce, an already volatile situation can spiral out of control without some outside help.
What is collaborative divorce?
A more peaceful way to navigate a divorce while avoiding courtroom battles is through collaborative divorce. Using this approach, a couple is supported by a professional team throughout the process and keeps negotiations at the table and out of court. Each spouse retains a lawyer, and the team may also include financial professionals, divorce coaches, mediators, or a child specialist.
How does collaborative divorce work?
Both divorcing parties and their attorneys sign an agreement not to go to court. The couple works together to reach a fair agreement, and a series of meetings is scheduled with the attorneys on board to advise. The couple themselves negotiate parenting issues, spousal support, and other issues. When necessary, other collaboratively trained professionals such as financial professionals or mediators may participate in these meetings.
Each spouse may have a divorce coach, psychologist or other mental health professional to help manage the emotional roller coaster of the process. If either spouse decides to abandon the process or behaves in a contentious way that makes an amicable settlement impossible, all members of the team must resign from the case. This aspect encourages the couple to continue with the challenging and often arduous task of reaching a settlement that is the most equitable for all involved.
Benefits of collaborative divorce
By using the collaborative divorce approach, each spouse feels in control of their own future and can and experience less animosity and stress. Rather than dwelling on past hurts and destructive patterns, the divorcing couple can focus on getting on positively with their individual lives and preserve the dignity of the family. The process is often less expensive, engaging one set of professionals rather than two. Most importantly, the process is family-focused, and custody and parenting decisions always put the interests of the children first. More states are implementing collaborative divorce with positive results and Michigan contributed by enacting the Uniform Collaborative Law Act in 2014.
As long as there is marriage, there will be divorce. By using collaborative divorce over court litigation, separating couples and their families most likely will achieve what’s best for all.
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