Once you have made the decision to split from your spouse, the thought of going through a lengthy divorce process may seem daunting. Getting divorced requires making important decisions about dividing assets, negotiating spousal support, and agreeing on child custody matters. If you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms of your divorce, the process can be time-consuming, stressful, and overwhelming.
Fortunately, North Carolina provides an alternate legal method for getting a divorce. The collaborative divorce process allows you to avoid court and negotiate the terms of your split with the guidance of an experienced attorney. At Caulder & Valentine, our North Carolina family law attorneys are prepared to help you navigate the complex divorce process and secure the terms you want. Call us today to request a free consultation and to learn more about the collaborative divorce process.
What is Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative divorce takes the process out of the courtroom and allows you to negotiate the terms of your split privately. You and your spouse are both represented by experienced collaborative divorce attorneys and, with the assistance of certain specialists, use your “best efforts” and “make a good faith attempt” to resolve the terms of your split. Collaborative divorce works because spouses must commit to the process. Before the process begins, the parties negotiate certain ground rules and sign a contract agreeing to avoid a battle in court. Any decisions that are made in the collaborative divorce process are binding and final.
Why Choose Collaborative Divorce?
Divorces can get ugly, especially when spouses cannot agree on the terms of their separation. Contested divorces tend to be more emotionally draining, take longer to resolve, and cost spouses a great deal of money. Choosing a collaborative divorce can minimize negative emotions, reduce stress, and save money.
Benefits of choosing collaborative divorce include:
- Negotiations are private.
- You maintain control over all final decisions.
- It is less expensive than a traditional divorce.
- It is less time-consuming because you choose when and where the process happens.
- Decisions made in a collaborative divorce are binding.
- Both parties identify and work toward mutual goals.
- The process fosters positive discussions and open communication between parties.
- It is less stressful for children involved.
What Should I Expect From a Collaborative Divorce?
If you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms of your divorce and want to resolve the matter quickly, a collaborative divorce may be right for you. Here's what you can expect during a collaborative divorce.
1. Choosing Collaborative Divorce
The first step in a collaborative divorce is making the decision to commit to the process. You and your spouse will have to agree to keep your disputes out of court and within the boundaries set by your attorneys. The process cannot be successful if, in the back of your mind, you think that taking your divorce in front of a judge is an option. Choosing collaborative divorce before you file a divorce petition will save time and money.
2. Choosing a Collaborative Divorce Attorney
You and your spouse will both have to be represented by experienced and trained collaborative divorce attorneys. At Caulder & Valentine, our attorneys are intimately familiar with North Carolina state collaborative divorce law and procedures and can help you achieve the results you want. We can provide a list of other collaborative divorce attorneys in the area who may be available to represent your spouse.
3. Initial Meeting
You and your attorney will sit down with your spouse and his or her attorney to negotiate and set certain ground rules. These rules will help to identify priorities, keep conversations civil, and encourage open communication throughout. A contract will be drawn up reflecting your responsibilities as a collaborative divorce participant. The contract will state:
- Both parties agree to finalize the terms of divorce without the assistance of a North Carolina court.
- Collaborative divorce attorneys are required to withdraw if either spouse takes the divorce in front of a judge.
- Conversations and negotiations are to remain private.
- All decisions made in the collaborative divorce process are binding.
4. Getting Ready for Settlement Conferences
The collaborative divorce process uses private settlement conferences to resolve the terms of your divorce. It is important to sit down with your North Carolina collaborative divorce attorney at the beginning of the process to discuss your case. Your attorney should be made fully aware of your expectations and what you would like to achieve in the process. Your attorney will use the information you provide during initial meetings to prepare for the settlement conferences. In preparation, your attorney with gather evidence, consult with experts, interview friends and family members, and conduct any other research that may be necessary to support your case.
5. Collaborative Divorce Settlement Conferences
You and your spouse will sit down with your attorneys and negotiate the terms of your divorce. There may be multiple conferences, depending on the complexity of your divorce and what you both want to accomplish. Your attorneys may bring in highly trained specialists (e.g., psychotherapists, social workers, child custody experts, financial experts) to help move the process along and encourage a fair resolution. Since these conferences are less formal than a traditional court proceeding, these specialists can speak more freely and help to move parties closer to an agreement. If you or your spouse wish to present witnesses, you are free to do so. Any evidence or information that may be relevant to your case should be presented to the other side at this time.
6. Finalizing the Terms of Your Divorce.
Once you and your spouse have agreed on how property will be divided, whether one of you will be required to pay alimony, and how child custody and child support will be arranged, you are ready to end the collaborative divorce process. Your attorneys will draft a contract called the Collaborative Law Settlement Agreement that reflects all agreed-upon terms. When you and your spouse sign this Agreement in the presence of a Notary you will be bound by its terms. This Agreement takes the place of any official court orders that would be issued in a traditional divorce.
What If We Can't Agree During Collaborative Divorce?
When you decide to use the collaborative divorce process, you agree to do everything in your power to resolve your split privately and stay out of court. Sometimes this may not work out. If you and your spouse simply cannot agree on the terms of your divorce, or if you feel that your spouse has been dishonest during the process, you have the option of filing a divorce petition with a North Carolina court.
However, it is important to understand that your collaborative divorce attorney must withdraw from your case. This means that you and your spouse will have to find new legal representation and start the process all over again. Once you commit to the collaborative divorce process it is important to embrace it. Be honest, be open, and fight to resolve your divorce amicably.
Experienced North Carolina Collaborative Divorce Attorneys
Are you thinking about getting a divorce in North Carolina? Do you have children who will be affected by your split, and want to limit the stress and negative emotion the divorce will cause? Do you want to get through the process quickly and without spending a lot of money? Choosing the collaborative divorce process may be right for you. Contact the North Carolina collaborative divorce attorneys at Caulder & Valentine today to schedule a consultation and find out more. We will review your case, explain the benefits of a collaborative divorce, and answer the questions you have.