Connecticut family law: the collaborative alternative in divorce

An alternative to traditional Connecticut divorce is the collaborative process.

The journey of a married couple that takes them to the point in time when it is clear that divorce is going to be the next step in life is hard enough. There are of course many reasons people dissolve their marriages and many different dynamics between divorcing spouses, but despite the stereotype, the divorce process does not have to be an exhausting battle.

Collaborative divorce in Connecticut is a modern alternative to traditional courtroom drama. While ultimately the divorce will be granted by a state court order, that order is essentially the embodiment of a cooperatively crafted divorce agreement that the divorcing parties negotiate in the collaborative process and submit to the court for approval.

Traditionally, the parties to a divorce try to negotiate through their attorneys a marital settlement agreement containing agreed-upon terms concerning child custody, child support, property division, alimony and other legal issues. When they cannot reach agreement, the divorce goes to court and the terms are decided by the judge after hearing evidence submitted by the divorcing spouses.

Court battles can be emotionally draining for everyone involved, including children, and very expensive. Collaboration offers a completely different approach in which the parties enter into a written agreement not to go to court, but instead to resolve their issues cooperatively in a series of meetings that include their family lawyers.

If the collaborative process breaks down, the parties must retain different divorce attorneys to represent them in an adversarial, traditional divorce.

Collaborative meetings can also involve neutral professionals who can contribute necessary expertise to the conversation. Such experts can include mental health professionals, financial experts like accountants, parenting or child experts, or anyone else necessary for the couple to make informed decisions in everyone's best interest.

A couple of key parts of a collaborative agreement tend to be the glue that keeps the negotiation going: the promises to act respectful, to keep everything confidential and to openly share all relevant personal and financial information. This requires a mindset of calm and perseverance as the couple works through tough issues that brought them to the table. While this is not always easy, it may be a smart alternative with less stress and negativity than court.

Often, but not always, collaboration ends up costing less than divorce litigation would. Conferring with an experienced collaborative law attorney about the pros and cons of the process and determining whether it is likely to be the better choice for the couple is important. For example, if there is a history of dishonesty that would make trust an issue around the collaborative table or the emotional trauma of sitting in the same room is too much, the negotiation may end up taking so long that it would not necessarily be better or cheaper.

But for many, collaborative divorce is a good and smart choice. Seek the advice of a Connecticut family lawyer with collaborative training like Nancy Noyes of Engelman, Noyes & Rubin, LLP, in New Haven to learn about the process and whether it might be a good choice for your Connecticut divorce.

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