Collaborative Domestic Law
"The secret is to gang up on the problem, rather than each other."
- Thomas Stallkamp
When a party is contemplating divorce, or modification of an existing post-judgment order and needs legal advice, the attorney they meet with should advise the client of all of the options they have to reach settlement. Unfortunately, many attorneys do not discuss with their clients the alternative dispute resolution options that are available. How parties go forward with reaching resolution will depend largely on their goals. For example, some couples are committed to divorcing with dignity and respect and will seek options consistent with those goals. Others seek punishment for the wrong-doer through the court and think that the court will vindicate wrongs done to them by the other spouse. Still others are determined to obtain the maximum personal advantage without regard for the needs of the other spouse, or the impact such an approach will have on the children. Read more about Collaborative vs Traditional Law. Those who want to proceed with dignity and focus on the future will seek different processes than those who feel they must be adversarial.
Collaborative Property Division/Alimony
In the best of economic times, people going through a divorce will suffer financially. This is simply a logical conclusion where the income and property available to support one household will have to support two separate households post-divorce. Present economic conditions make these consequences even more serious. Where parties work together, however, they can minimize the financial hit both will suffer. While the "win-win" mentality may seem overused and hard to imagine possible in the context of divorce, it really can work. Attorneys experienced in the valuation and division of assets, tax laws impacting the payment and receipt of alimony and child support, and how to utilize financial professionals for the structure of property division and budgets can maximize the available income and assets of both parties.
Collaborative Prenuptial/Post-Nuptial Agreements
There is an old saying the money is the last thing people will think to talk about before marriage and the first thing they will fight about after marriage. A Prenuptial Agreement (sometimes called an Antenuptial Agreement), is basically a private agreement between a couple contemplating marriage. It is a very flexible document that can be used to arrange in advance financial matters in the event of death or divorce, designate property as marital or separate, insulate one spouse from particular debts and support obligations, protect an inheritance, or address non-financial matters. A Prenuptial Agreement can be a catalyst to communication because it requires a couple to examine critical issues involving finances and children prior to marriage and find resolutions that are acceptable to both. By going through this process couples establish a precedent for dialogue and can enhance their prospects for a happy marriage. Prenuptial agreements (and post-nuptials, entered into after marriage) are no longer only for the "rich and famous" and should at least be considered by every person contemplating marriage.