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People often expect that a divorce will be a long, bitter process. And for some people, it can be if they are hostile or dealing with especially complex issues. Often, these types of cases wind up in a courtroom.

However, a divorce does not have to be this way. There are alternatives to litigated divorces that allow divorcing spouses to pursue a more peaceful split. One option is a collaborative divorce.

Elements of a collaborative divorce

In a collaborative divorce, parties resolve divorce matters outside of court using cooperative, cost-effective dispute resolution methods. All parties — including divorcing spouses and their individual attorneys — must agree to this approach. If collaboration is not successful, then parties secure new counsel and go to court.

During a collaborative divorce, parties work together, with attorneys and nonparty participants (like mental health professionals). These parties work together to negotiate and resolve issues like child custody, child support and property division.

The process happens outside of court. It prioritizes cooperation and a respectful environment. Any solutions reached will be binding.

Is collaboration right for us?

Before deciding on a collaborative divorce, you must assess whether this approach is appropriate. As discussed in the Pennsylvania Collaborative Law Act, you should discuss your case with an attorney to determine if there are any factors that might prevent collaboration from being effective. This might include a history of violent or threatening behavior.

If a collaborative divorce is fitting, both parties and their attorneys will sign a collaborative participation agreement. This document states that the parties intend to resolve matters through collaboration. It may also include confidentiality clauses and specifications for the roles of nonparty participants.

Determining if a collaborative divorce is right for you depends on the specific details of your case. Mediation is another option you might consider if you want to stay out of court. To figure out if one of these options will work for you, you can consult your attorney.