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Is Collaborative Divorce really the best option for me?

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One of the best things about practicing family law with the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance is the different divorce options we're able to offer clients. If you have a case that needs to be litigated, we take the fierce part of our "fierce but compassionate" motto to heart. If you feel your case can be settled through mediation, we have experience in getting decrees secured through those means. And if you feel that a collaborative divorce fits you best, we have lawyers specifically trained in that branch of family law practice who can work with you.

Collaborative divorce certainly has its advantages, and when people first learn about it, it's definitely intriguing. It can allow for a more flexible divorce process with more creative solutions. Because the process takes places in law offices rather than the courtroom, it's private and it's on your schedule. And it puts the control in the clients' and lawyers' hands, rather than leaving how your decree turns out to a judge who doesn't really know you.

But collaborative law's not the only alternative dispute resolution method out there, and people need to be mindful of all that collaborative involves before jumping in. Before moving forward with collaborative law, here are some questions to consider:

Can I work with my soon-to-be ex?

You don't have to like each other to successfully come to a divorce settlement through collaborative law, but you do have to be able to negotiate. If one of you is entrenched in a position on a parenting plan or how a certain asset should be distributed, it's going to be a challenge to reach a settlement collaboratively. Collaborative law requires a willingness to give and take, and if you know that your soon-to-be ex won't agree to something you want, it's going to be difficult to move forward.

Am I willing to start the divorce process over if collaborative doesn't work?

Here's an eyebrow-raising fact about collaborative: Most collaborative lawyers sign a contract at the start of the process saying they won't go to litigation. If a divorce can't be settled through collaboration, the lawyers you've been working with will simply stop working on the case, and you and your spouse will have to find legal counsel who will litigate. That means that all the time and money you invested in collaborative adds up to the both of you understanding what you don't agree on!

Do you trust the valuation of assets to a single person?

In collaborative divorces, it may be appropriate to bring in what's called a financial neutral to help setting questions about assets and debts. Rather than each side arguing what an asset is worth, the financial neutral determines the value, and both sides abide by it. This is intended to reduce the back-and-forth that can happen in divorce when an asset's worth is disputed. But if the asset means a lot to you and you feel it's undervalued, you don't have the latitude you would in a litigated case to contest it.

Do you have considerable time and money to spend on a divorce?

Collaborative can be a great process for some couples, but it can also take a long time to get to agreement. There are some cases in which mediation might allow for the same settlement to happen much faster. Mediation brings the mindset of "we're going to come to a final decree today," whereas collaborative can bring the mindset of "we'll settle this when we're ready to settle it and not before."

That's not to say that collaborative law doesn't work for some couples -- it can definitely do that, and some people look back on the process and are happy they went that way.

But divorce is not one size fits all. If you're interested in collaborative law, a consultation with the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance is a good idea. If we think it'll work for you, we'll let you know that and get you started. But if we don't think it'll work for you, we'll tell you why and place you on a track that we believe best fits your case.

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