A traditional South Carolina divorce begins when one spouse files a lawsuit against the other. The couple then competes in family court, with each party seeking victory over the other. The parties may eventually settle the case, but usually after much time and expense have been spent in the litigation process. Those who don’t reach an agreement battle it out at trial, leaving crucial decisions about their future and the futures of their children in the hands of a stranger.
There is another option: Collaborative divorce. The family law attorneys at Morton & Gettys are trained to help couples pursue this approach, in which parties work together to resolve their problems fairly and effectively. The collaborative model focuses on finding solutions that are mutually beneficial to both parties, helping to avoid the resentment and acrimony that so often follow divorce.
Though collaborative divorce is not for everyone – in some situations, the divides are just too deep – for many couples it can save time, money and stress.
In a collaborative divorce, the parties have the services of a team of neutral professionals, including a collaborative coach and a financial professional. Child specialists are sometimes involved as well, depending on the family’s needs. These professionals use their skills and training to evaluate and suggest, but all decisions are left to the parties.
Meeting settings are informal, which can help put the parties more at ease. The parties also determine when to meet rather than having times and dates dictated by a court calendar.
Advantages to a collaborative divorce
Control: The parties make all final decisions on everything from child custody to alimony. They decide division of property and other financial matters, too. Contrast this to a traditional divorce, where a judge decides. It’s not uncommon for both parties to be dissatisfied with a judge’s rulings.
Communication: Communication during a collaborative divorce promotes respect. The parties speak directly with each other, addressing both of their concerns and goals. This allows each party to offer context and explanation for their positions, something rarely achieved through formal legal demands. Establishing an open line of communication is also a tremendous benefit to parties who must continue to co-parent after the divorce.
Cost: Using a single team of neutral professionals eliminates the need for both parties to pay for separate assessments. Often, the collaborative process is also more efficient, which may save money and time.
Privacy: Every court filing, every accusation – true or not – is public record in a traditional divorce. With collaborative divorce, private details remain private. The parties agree not to file anything with the court until an agreement is reached.
Effectiveness: According to the South Carolina Academy of Collaborative Professionals, compliance with final agreements in collaborative divorces is greater than in traditional divorce, most likely due to the parties’ hands-on involvement in shaping the agreement.
If you’d like to learn more about the concept of collaborative divorce, contact Morton & Gettys’ collaboratively trained family law attorneys, Michael Smith or Lynelle Morgan. Either will be glad to discuss this exciting and emerging practice with you.