A Minnesota Guide to Collaborative Divorce

It’s no secret that divorce can be contentious, expensive, painful, and exhausting. Movies like “Marriage Story” and “Kramer vs. Kramer” portray it as an all-out struggle between two parties. The truth is that divorce can be messy, but it doesn’t have to be.

State courts recommend that couples work out their disputes through the process of collaborative divorce. The process offers a smoother transition to the next stage of life than what you might see on the silver screen. Couples can use lawyers who practice collaborative law or hire a professional mediator to serve as an objective third party to facilitate the divorce proceedings. Frequently, a financial planner or advisor helps create a plan to divide the assets.

At Divorce Financially, our Minnesota company of divorce mediation professionals, we provide clients with the resources and divorce professionals you may need to move forward. We take pride in helping people reach amicable settlements, even when tensions are high. Here’s what you need to know about collaborative divorce in Minnesota.

what is collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce is an alternative to traditional divorce in which couples negotiate a settlement without going to court. The process combines mediation, guidance, and negotiation to reach a mutually agreed-upon arrangement. Terms of settlement may include child support, property division, child custody, and debt resolution.

A collaborative divorce mediator or attorney works closely with clients to ensure a win-win situation. Their skills in conflict management and negotiation can be invaluable when guiding spouses through the process. These divorce professionals work as client advocates while also representing what’s fair and just according to law.

For many clients, one goal of collaborative divorce is to avoid the hassle and extreme expense of going to court. As long as the parties reach a mutual agreement, everyone can avoid court and the high costs that it incurs.

how does collaborative law work?

Collaborative divorce professionals reach settlements through what can be three-way or four-way meetings. Spouses and a mediator (or, if necessary, their attorneys) meet around a table to discuss pressing issues. The parties work from a pre-established agenda as the couple addresses issues one by one.

So, what is the collaborative divorce process, and how does it work? The answer depends on the couple and their disputes. If the couple is willing to part on amicable terms but needs a third party’s help to help negotiate and come to an agreement on how to settle and divide their assets (and possibly create custody and support arrangement for their children), then collaborative is the way to go.

Here are some of the common steps you can expect from the collaborative divorce process, which bypasses the need to take the divorce to court.

step 1: Hire a divorce mediator

The first step is for the couple to find a qualified divorce mediator or collaborative divorce attorney. Occasionally each spouse will find their own qualified collaborative divorce attorney if they want personal representation, while many other couples coordinate the process and share the same mediator, attorney, or law firm.

Once the spouses hire someone, the collaborative professional will set up an initial joint meeting at an agreed-upon location. If each spouse has their own attorney, clients can also meet with their attorney before the joint meeting in order to prepare for the case.

step 2: begin the collaborative divorce process

The mediator or attorney(s) gather both members of the couple for an initial joint meeting in a neutral environment. During this session, they discuss the collaborative divorce process, immediate issues, and potential resolutions. Attorneys or mediators may also recommend other experts that should mediate the process, such as a professional divorce coach, child specialist, or financial consultant. At Divorce Financially, all our mediators are also financial specialists.

This meeting also includes paperwork in which the parties sign a participation agreement. In collaborative law, that means the participants agree that they will not go to divorce court to resolve the case. Parties may also ask attorneys to withdraw from the case if they don’t reach an agreement.

step 3: address immediate needs

Couples may have issues that require immediate attention. Often, these involve children and the question of who should have temporary custody. Mediators or attorneys will table everything to resolve these needs first.

This stage is the first true challenge of the collaborative process. A couple needs to agree that certain things take precedence over others, such as children or financial support. If the parties can reach agreements at this point, it bodes well for the rest of the process.

step 4: talk with professionals

Mediators or collaborative attorneys work with specialists across different fields to mediate the divorce. Collaborative experts such as mental health professionals and child specialists can help the parties settle faster. These specialists serve as third parties so that couples don’t have to worry about bias.

These professionals must have training in the collaborative divorce process. A baseline understanding of the method allows each professional to tailor their advice to the situation. The last thing you want is a financial specialist who has no concept of collaborative or family law to give advice.

step 5: gather information

In the next stage, the mediators or attorneys work with clients to gather information for subsequent meetings. They may also work with specialists to accumulate evidence, including salaries, tax returns, assets, debts, and 401k contributions during the marriage. All of this information will help the collaborative professional make informed decisions during the collaborative divorce process.

step 6: share perspective

Collaborative divorce works best when everyone is on the same page. Each party should share their needs, preferences, and goals. These insights provide the collaboration professionals with benchmarks that they can work toward during the divorce.

All divorces are unique, including the parents and children involved in them. Each party should understand what’s important to their spouse and their children, if any, so that the final arrangement can reflect their desires as closely as possible. The more reconciliation that exists during the collaborative process, the longer the relationship should last post-divorce.

step 7: negotiate a settlement agreement

Reaching an agreement is easier in theory than in practice. A collaborative law professional might ask clients to consider their assets, debts, and cash flow based on the existing research. Using that information, the clients should envision a financial plan that meets their own needs and those of their partner.

This proposition forces people to take a compassionate approach to collaborative divorce. It’s common for parties to have differing ideas about how the process should work. A mediator or attorney serves as the guiding hand to ensure that spouses feel valued and recognized from start to finish.

step 8: finalize a legal divorce

The collaborative professional provides the necessary guidance to reach an agreement. Couples will still need to finalize their divorce in the eyes of the legal system. They or their attorney can file a dissolution of marriage on their behalf at the local court to terminate the relationship.

The court requires four things to approve a collaborative divorce:

  • Residency
  • Waiting Period
  • Legal Grounds
  • Jurisdictional requirements

For example, the spouse filing for the divorce must have lived in Minnesota for a specified time. They also can’t file and finalize their divorce on the same day.

is it right for me?

Determining whether collaborative divorce is right for you will depend on your preferences and those of your spouse. Is your partner willing to negotiate? Will they work with you to reach a lasting agreement? Is there a history of mental or physical abuse in your relationship that would prevent negotiations?

Couples that can set aside their differences are well suited for collaborative divorce. The spouses can go through the process rationally without letting intense emotions cloud their judgment. These couples will also save time and money because they won’t need to go to court. Collaborative divorces cost only a fraction of the price of contested divorces.

However, some couples cannot reconcile with each other. Couples who have trouble reaching mutually-beneficial agreements should consider traditional divorce. The divorce case will go to court, where attorneys work out the divorce issues with the judge.

contact us today

Learn more about the collaborative divorce process by getting in touch with the mediation professionals at Divorce Financially. We have already assisted 2,000 people and their families in navigating the hurdles that come with the end of the marital relationship. We are here to support and serve you, whether you need help with child custody, property division, or financial arrangements.

If you live in Minnesota, call our specially-trained collaborative divorce attorneys and mediators at Divorce Financially to schedule your free case review today. You can reach us by phone at (952) 428-7800 or by email at divorce@ajwfinancial.com to schedule a free 30-minute initial consultation. We are located in Edina, MN, in the Minneapolis area.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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