Virginia collaborative divorce: a new model

A new model of divorce built around mutual respect may be a good choice in your situation.

A divorce attorney in Minnesota was tired of seeing the negative, combative process of traditional divorce and the devastating impact it can have had on the individuals involved. Stuart Webb came up with a unique and different approach to divorce that many in Virginia, across the country and even around the globe have embraced: collaborative law.

Some of the basic premises of divorce procedure are absent in collaborative divorce, which can be confusing. Anyone contemplating a divorce in Virginia should sit down with a family lawyer who practices in a variety of types of divorce such as collaboration, mediation and traditional negotiation and litigation. This professional can explain the differences among the processes and the pros and cons of each, in light of the unique circumstances of the client and his or her family situation.

The basics of collaboration

Collaborative divorce is held down by some key principles: dignity, respect, honesty and creativity. The process begins with each party signing a collaborative participation agreement with some key premises:

  • The parties will behave with dignity and respect for one another.
  • The parties pledge to be forthright and honest in all matters, including complete accounting of all assets and income.
  • The process will consist of a series of four-way meetings among each client and each of their lawyers specially trained in the collaborative process.
  • Neutral professionals will be hired jointly as needed to provide the information needed to reach an informed agreement or to get through the process such as financial advisors, tax accountants, parenting consultants, divorce coaches (to get through the negotiation), appraisers, real estate brokers and any other specialist needed.
  • The parties promise to come to agreement through collaboration rather than court (although the ultimate collaborative agreement is submitted to court for approval). If the process breaks down, each must hire a new attorney to start over in traditional divorce or mediation.

Pros and cons

Supporters of collaborative divorce point to the likelihood of less emotional turmoil and the possibility of an ongoing, more positive relationship after divorce, especially if there are children involved. Creative solutions can be found in collaboration that a judge is not likely to have ordered.

Collaborative divorce is likely to be cheaper than traditional divorce, but not necessarily if progress is not made toward resolution, since at each meeting two attorneys must be paid. The ability to communicate and move beyond impasses and anger must be considered in the decision of which kind of divorce to choose.

Finally, collaboration is not appropriate if there is a history of violence or abuse, if one party is particularly emotionally vulnerable and seeing the other is too difficult, or if one spouse has a personality not amenable to collaboration such as a tendency to control.

An attorney with collaborative training and experience can answer all questions and help determine whether collaborative divorce is a good option for you.

The lawyers of Barnes & Diehl, P.C., with offices in Richmond/Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover, Virginia, represent clients in collaborative and traditional divorce as well as a wide range of other family law issues across the state of Virginia.