What’s Unique About Getting a Collaborative Divorce
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March 14, 2022

Collaborative Divorce in Arizona

Divorce and Family Law

Collaborative Divorce in Arizona
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Making the decision to divorce can feel overwhelming. It is a major life change that will alter your day-to-day experience as you know it. When making a decision of this magnitude, it is important to understand your options. Most individuals are familiar with divorce litigation in the courtroom or mediation outside of it, but in Arizona, there is an additional option. This option is known as collaborative divorce.

Collaborative divorce is a great alternative to traditional divorces that can often cause animosity and increase costs.[1]Warner, A. (2017). Collaborative divorce as an alternative to traditional adversarial divorce or other forms of alternative dispute resolution. Drake Law Review Discourse, 67, 101. The success of this process relies on the willingness of the two separating parties to work together to reach an agreement that is fair for both sides. This type of divorce is usually the best choice for those who want to reduce stress, minimize costs, keep their proceedings private, and reach a mutually beneficial outcome.

The Problem With Divorce Litigation

You are likely familiar with traditional divorce proceedings that take place in the courtroom. This process involves the separating couple, their attorneys, and a judge who holds the ultimate decision-making power when it comes to the final divorce decree. This process can be successful for divorcing couples, but it can also prolong the process and create animosity. When children are involved, a lengthy court battle can create further roadblocks for their ability to process the situation and maintain their existing relationship with both parents.[2]Jiménez-García, P., Contreras, L., & Cano-Lozano, M. C. (2019). Types and intensity of postdivorce conflicts, the exercise of coparenting and its consequences on children. Revista … Continue reading What’s more, during traditional divorce proceedings, attorneys will often ask their clients to stop speaking with one another outside of necessary co-parenting interactions. This can lead to miscommunications that further complicate the divorce process.

In a traditional divorce, it’s important to consider the cost of extensive court proceedings. This often includes attorney fees for in-court appearances as well as communications outside of the hearings. If you encounter issues and your divorce is drawn out to solve them, this can quickly cause a major impact on your finances. Since your finances could already be strained due to the divorce, a lengthy divorce often leads to further stress and frustration.

The biggest drawback to a traditional divorce is that a judge has the ultimate decision-making power concerning all aspects of the divorce. This includes division of assets, spousal support, legal decision-making, and physical and legal custody for any children. This can leave one or both spouses feeling the results are unfair.

What Is Collaborative Divorce in Arizona?

What Is Collaborative Divorce in Arizona?

Collaborative divorce is an ideal alternative to traditional divorce court proceedings.[3]Alba‐Fisch, M. (2016). Collaborative divorce: An effort to reduce the damage of divorce. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 72(5), 444-457. This approach involves a team of individuals whose main goal is to help the separating spouses reach mutual decisions outside of the courtroom. Like a traditional divorce, each spouse retains their own attorney. The main difference is that these attorneys aren’t focused on one spouse’s desires, but instead what is beneficial for everyone involved. Instead of encouraging a halt in communication, the attorneys are there to help facilitate healthy communication. Other members of the collaborative team could include a neutral financial professional, a child specialist, and a communication coach.

The main objective in a collaborative divorce is to settle any divorce issues with open discussion and without having to go to court. This ensures that your divorce remains private and that you have complete control in negotiating solutions to all your divorce issues. Collaborative divorce in Arizona covers the same issues as a traditional divorce but relies on negotiations and agreements to prevent excess time spent in court.

These negotiations can include:

Spousal Support and Maintenance

Your attorneys and a neutral financial professional will help guide you through addressing spousal support[4]Oldham, J. T. (2018). An Overview of the Rules in the USA regarding the Award of Post-Divorce Spousal Support in 2019. Houston journal of international law, 41, 525.. Both parties must be willing to provide clear and honest financial information to reach such an agreement.

Legal Decision-Making (Child Custody) and Parenting Plans

For those with children, determining care, division of parenting time, and other responsibilities can be the most difficult part of the divorce process. A child specialist and your attorneys can help guide this sensitive process, helping to reach mutual agreements that are focused on putting the needs of the children first. After a parenting plan is created via collaborative divorce, an Arizona judge can approve it with the official divorce decree.

Asset and Property Division

With fully transparent asset and property information, separating spouses can be guided through the process of fairly dividing the assets and properties shared. This can provide the best outcome for both parties involved. Since Arizona is a community property state, reaching a mutually agreeable decision during collaborative divorce can provide a more equitable division of property.

A collaborative divorce can provide the same outcome as traditional litigation with a fraction of the cost, time, and stress involved. This process relies on the ability of the separating spouses to work together to achieve mutual benefits. While this process can still be difficult, it provides the best chance for both parties to feel they were represented fairly. Collaboration can also help to build a bridge for successful co-parenting in the future if children are involved.

How Does the Collaborative Divorce Process Work?

Collaborative Divorce Process

The process of a collaborative divorce is relatively simple. One of the best benefits of this process is that it completely takes place outside of the courtroom. This helps to ensure that your divorce proceedings are 100% confidential. When you decide that a collaborative divorce is the right option for you, you will typically follow these steps:

  1. You will first hire an attorney to represent you, usually a professional who is trained in collaborative law.
  2. Before meeting with anyone else, you and your attorney will sit down to discuss your goals throughout the proceedings. This is your opportunity to ensure your attorney fully understands your wants and needs, as well as what could be triggering issues between you and your spouse.
  3. Together you’ll determine the first session date and location. This typically takes place in one of the attorney’s private offices. During this first session, you will sign a Collaborative Commitment Agreement. This document outlines a commitment to proceed outside of court, and what will happen if the divorce proceedings must move into the courtroom. In this situation, your attorney will no longer be able to work with you, and you’ll essentially need to start over with courtroom litigation. You’ll also set up recurring group meetings to further the divorce process.
  4. After the first session, your attorneys will determine whether you could benefit from additional third-party experts to help you reach an agreement. This could involve a communication specialist, a neutral financial professional, or a child specialist. This largely depends on the types of issues you are facing as your marriage ends.
  5. Group sessions will continue until all aspects of divorce have been addressed. Most collaborative divorces conclude after the 3rd or 4th session.
  6. Once collaboration is complete, your attorneys will file your final legal paperwork and settlement agreement with the court. Once the judge approves, your divorce will be official.

Collaborative Divorce in Arizona: Is Collaborative Divorce a Good Idea?

Every divorce situation is unique. You may be in a situation where you know that you can work with your spouse to reach a mutual agreement, or you may be in a situation where the other party is completely unwilling to work with you. Collaborative divorce is ideal for people who are willing and able to work together.

Collaborative divorce allows the separating couple to make decisions for themselves instead of relying on a judge to make each final determination. Collaborative divorce also helps to reduce the cost of the process, as well as minimize the stress involved when worrying about finances. It also helps to minimize negative feelings towards one another and any fighting that could take place. If you feel you would benefit from more control over your final divorce outcome and are willing to work with your spouse to achieve mutually beneficial divorce, collaborative divorce is likely a solid choice in your situation.

What Should I Ask for in a Collaborative Divorce?

A collaborative divorce seeks the same results as other methods of divorce. Your attorney will help guide you in determining what you should be asking for. They have the knowledge and experience to ensure that no concern is missed while preparing for your divorce. Typical topics discussed in a collaborative divorce include spousal support, legal decision-making for children, child support, and asset and property division.

Is Collaborative Divorce Cheaper?

Just as each relationship is unique, each divorce situation is unique—some divorces will require more complicated negotiations than others. Generally, however, a collaborative divorce can be much cheaper than traditional courtroom litigation. When you go to court to solve various issues in your divorce, you must pay court fees as well as attorney fees for the time the issue takes to resolve. For most separating couples, attorney fees are what can add up the most quickly.

An attorney can cost you thousands to start, and that number will grow if the divorce process gets drawn out. Courtroom disagreements can also necessitate additional court dates, which involves even more fees. You’ll also be charged for communications outside of the courtroom throughout the proceedings. For this reason, a traditional divorce in Arizona can cost up to $20,000, compared to a collaborative divorce that is generally anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the complexity of your situation.

What Is the Difference Between Mediation and Collaborative Divorce?

While both mediation and collaborative divorce are great alternatives for dispute resolutions, they do differ.[5]Stoner, K. (2021). Divorce without court: A guide to mediation and collaborative divorce, 6th ed. Nolo. Mediation involves the two separating spouses coming together with a neutral third party to reach a mutual agreement that helps to avoid the need for a judge’s ruling. This option keeps complete control in the hands of the spouses. It is an informal, flexible, and inexpensive way to reach a peaceful divorce. This process relies heavily on the ability of the couple to work together, and failure to do so may result in the need for court litigation.

Collaborative divorce shares some similarities with this process, but also some stark differences. A collaborative divorce is an interdisciplinary approach that relies on experts such as your attorneys, financial advisors, child specialists, and even mental health professionals that play an important role in your proceedings. While no one on the team has any decision-making power, they still provide expert guidance to ensure that the process is moving forward in a manner that is fair to both spouses.

As a result, the largest difference between mediation and a collaborative divorce is that in a collaborative divorce, each spouse is represented by an attorney who communicates directly with the rest of the team. There is a “no-court” agreement that states if the collaborative divorce process is unable to work, both attorneys would need to withdraw before it goes to court. This means you’d have to find new representation for litigation within the courtroom. Your attorneys work together to recommend other professionals that may be beneficial for your situation. While mediation involves a meeting of the two separating parties with a neutral third-party mediator, a collaborative divorce involves at least a four-way meeting between the separating parties and their attorneys.

Does Arizona Require Marriage Counseling Before Divorce?

In Arizona, you are not necessarily required to attend marriage counseling before a divorce proceeding can take place. However, if one spouse feels that the marriage can be saved through counseling, they can petition the court to have the dissolution order delayed by 120 days. During this time, a divorcing couple would be required to undergo marriage counseling to see if there is any chance at reconciliation.

Is Collaborative Divorce in Arizona Right for You?

Collaborative Divorce in Arizona

Making the decision to get divorced is never easy. It is a drastic life change that can feel overwhelming. Once you’ve made the difficult decision to seek a divorce in Arizona, it is beneficial to understand your options for achieving the dissolution of your marriage. Traditional court litigation can ensure your divorce is finalized, but you ultimately have little control over the proceedings. Your fate will rest in the hands of your attorney and the final decision of the judge.

Collaborative divorce ensures that your voice is heard throughout the entire divorce process. You will have the peace of mind that comes with legal representation, but you will ultimately maintain control regarding each of your key issues. However, the only way this option will work is if you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse are willing to work together.

If you are considering a collaborative divorce in Arizona, you need help from a skilled law firm with experience in this unique type of divorce. The attorneys at Reppucci & Roeder are well versed in the intricacies of Arizona collaborative divorce. Contact us to learn more about divorce and how we can help you move peacefully to the next phase of your life.

 

*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published Aug, 2021 and has been updated

 

References

References
1 Warner, A. (2017). Collaborative divorce as an alternative to traditional adversarial divorce or other forms of alternative dispute resolution. Drake Law Review Discourse, 67, 101.
2 Jiménez-García, P., Contreras, L., & Cano-Lozano, M. C. (2019). Types and intensity of postdivorce conflicts, the exercise of coparenting and its consequences on children. Revista iberoamericana de psicologia y salud., 10(1), 48-63.
3 Alba‐Fisch, M. (2016). Collaborative divorce: An effort to reduce the damage of divorce. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 72(5), 444-457.
4 Oldham, J. T. (2018). An Overview of the Rules in the USA regarding the Award of Post-Divorce Spousal Support in 2019. Houston journal of international law, 41, 525.
5 Stoner, K. (2021). Divorce without court: A guide to mediation and collaborative divorce, 6th ed. Nolo.
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