Marriage can be compared to building a house. Blueprints for the future are made, concrete foundations of love, trust and commitment are laid, and the house is built. While some of these homes are able to withstand all of life’s occurrences, others are not. When this happens, there are many different alternatives that couples can use to go about deconstructing these homes. The traditional divorce model involves filing and serving a Petition through the court. If the lawsuit is carried out and goes through litigation, this can result in the judge becoming the contractor who calls the shots on who gets what when the “property” is torn down, or the marriage ends. On the other end of the spectrum, a Collaborative Divorce can allow spouses to keep their hard hats on during the demolition phase and work through this difficult stage together.
Created to encourage open communication and cooperation between divorcing spouses, a collaborative practice seeks to resolve each case through a settlement that’s reached outside of the courtroom. This Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to divorce utilizes a team of professionals trained specifically in the collaborative law process, including an attorney for each party, who is also a legal advisor and settlement specialist. Other experts serving on the team, who work for both parties, can include a facilitator for the process, a mental health professional, a financial advisor and a child specialist.
The basic elements of a collaborative practice are:
At the conclusion of a collaborative case, a formal agreement is signed by both parties and becomes binding and legally enforceable.
One of the biggest benefits of a collaborative practice is that couples aren’t relinquishing control to the court system, Attorney Keith Grossman of Florida-based Grossman Law & Conflict Management says. This lower conflict approach is especially beneficial to families who have children of any age together, because throughout the years there will be situations that warrant some form of contact or engagement with one another.
“(Collaborative practices) set the tone for it to be not just cooperative now, but for a lower conflict and more cooperative type of relationship for the future,” Grossman says. The opportunity to build this good rapport begins when the families walk through the door into a conference room, rather than a courtroom. Establishing this open safe space allows spouses to voice their concerns about their split and give more detailed information about their situation than they would in court. Among these specific family situations include accounting for the best interest of the children involved and accounting for substance abuse issues, such as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).
With mental health professionals and child specialists being an optional addition to the family’s case, it presents a space for children to have a voice in the situation. “Typically we’ll have discussions with the family members and if there’s a child that’s old enough to share some thoughts and concerns, the mental health professional can include that in the work that they’re doing… and include the child’s voice at the table in that way,” Grossman says.
Another common issue in separations is Alcohol Use Disorder. Grossman acknowledges that while this serious issue can propose an added challenge to the separation, it does not mean that the divorce cannot be settled using cooperative methods. For example, one way to address allegations and concerns from one parent about the other’s drinking is through Soberlink’s remote alcohol monitoring system. Adding in a testing option that allows one parent to test and document their sobriety, and the other parent to confirm an alcohol-free test in real time can give peace of mind to both parties and eliminate any he-said, she-said scenarios. This can also help to create normalcy in children’s lives to allow them to spend time with both parents more consistently and maintain a relationship with each of them without having to be in the presence of a mediator. With Soberlink’s Advanced Reporting, the collaborative team can analyze the results and make a fact-based decision on custody schedules and how to move forward with what is in the best interest for both the children and parents.
Breaking the norm of what a family is used to–two spouses under the same roof–is never easy, especially when there are children involved. However, simply throwing in the keys and handing the reins over to someone else, like a judge or lawyers who aren’t familiar with the family’s situation, can make things even more troublesome in the long run. Through an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), such as a collaborative practice, families can take the time to work through the complicated issues and set the stage for an easier transition from a difficult time to a happier tomorrow.
Learn more about how Soberlink is used in Family Law.