Collaborative Divorce is an alternative way to settle family law disputes.  It is a voluntary dispute resolution process where the divorcing parties come to an agreement without resorting to litigation.  In Washington State Collaborative Law is regulated by the Uniform Collaborative Law Act, Chapter 7.77 RCW

In Collaborative Divorce each party is represented by his/her own attorney.  A team of experts and professionals works together, helping the parties reach a satisfactory agreement that is durable (i.e., it is expected to last) and legally binding.  In the typical Collaborative Divorce with children, assets, and debts, the team is often composed of 2 Collaborative Divorce attorneys (1 for each side), a neutral financial advisor who helps the parties look at different options for the division of debts and assets, a neutral mental health professional who facilitates productive communication and helps the parties in their transition to separate lives, and a neutral child expert who helps the parties with the transition to co-parenting.  Comparing this to a non-collaborative, contested family law divorce, where each party hires his/her own team of experts, duplicating costs and often requiring depositions and aggressive discovery, it can result in cost savings for the divorcing couple, preserving the assets to share.

The potential advantages of Collaborative Divorce over non-collaborative, contested family law divorce are the following:

  • Cost savings.
  • A process that is less traumatic for the children.
  • A voluntary agreement that is understood by the parties and is meant to be durable.

The cost savings are usually the result of the following:

  • The cost of retaining experts is usually halved.
  • A durable agreement achieved through Collaborative Divorce is less likely to require future adversarial proceedings (appeals or contested modifications).

Collaborative Divorce is not the best solution for everyone.  It is important that you discuss your options with your attorney before deciding how you wish to proceed, given that Collaborative Divorce and non-collaborative, contested family law divorce are mutually exclusive.