Divorce is a difficult procedure, no matter how you spin it. But it doesn’t have to be a knockdown drag-out fight that costs each party their life’s savings in attorney’s fees. A collaborative divorce is the name given to proceedings that are, for the most part, amicable. Such a divorce can minimize costs, streamline efficiency, and get all parties involved back on their feet and moving on as soon as possible. See if a collaborative divorce is right for you – and if you could benefit from a process called a “four-way meeting.”
Is a Collaborative Divorce for Me?
Though they sound like the best option, collaborative divorces aren’t for everyone. Some couples have high-conflict marriages, and animosity precludes most collaborative divorces. Other couples agree about asset division and custody arrangements and simply need help filing the appropriate paperwork.
Collaborative divorces are best for those people who fall somewhere in the middle: They may have different views on property division, support, and custody arrangements. But that doesn’t mean they have a high-conflict dispute. These couples need the help of a neutral party making those decisions together. This is where the collaborative divorce process comes in.
Collaborative Law and the Four-Way Meeting
Collaborative law is the process by which you and your spouse come to an agreement about the division of assets, custody, and support, each with the help of a collaborative attorney. This is a four-way meeting. You will each meet separately with your own attorney before starting collaborative four-way meetings. Keep in mind, though, that four can be a misnomer, as your meetings may also include child support professionals or third party accountants who provide their own advice.
In a collaborative divorce, couples generally sign “no-court” agreements that stipulate both attorneys will withdraw from the case if it goes to court.
Benefits of a Four-Way Meeting
A collaborative divorce helps in many ways. The prime benefits include:
- A faster divorce proceeding. Couples will be free to live their own lives sooner, if all goes according to plan.
- A streamlined process, which means less money in attorney’s fees.
- Stabilizing situations before they become volatile.
- The process is completely voluntary, which makes it more amicable for both parties.
How to Make a Four-Way Meeting Work
Four-way meetings can be effective, but you will get out of them what you put into them. Your long-term goals and interests are the foundation of a four-way meeting, and the more committed you are to making those work the more likely you are to be successful.
At the core of the four-way meeting is the idea each party should get what he or she is most interested in keeping. Getting this may mean making some other sacrifices. This is where the idea of conflict resolution comes in, which involves four steps:
- Identifying the issues, which includes prioritizing for both parties involved.
- Gathering the facts. Generally, you meet with your attorney alone to discuss your case, and both of your attorneys will swap information in the four-way.
- Developing options that work for both parties.
- Negotiating a final solution.
Both you and your attorney have a specific role to play in the process. You and your spouse are responsible for the decisions made in these four-way meetings, and your lawyers, on the other hand, are there to keep the process on track while creating and maintaining a safe environment for discussion. It’s important to realize, however, you also must work to keep the environment conducive to reaching solutions.
A collaborative divorce is an attractive option for many couples. With the right attitude, you may have an amicable and effective divorce proceeding.