How Does Collaborative Divorce Work and Is It Right for You?

According to family law, divorce is a legal process that officially terminates a marriage. It can be disputed or agreed upon, depending on whether spouses can decide over disagreements they have.

One of the options for parties who want to end their marital relations peacefully is a collaborative divorce. It assumes that both spouses will cooperate with lawyers who will help them reach a divorce agreement. In addition to attorneys taking part in divorce, third-party involvement may also be necessary. You may need mediators or other specialists when resolving disputes regarding the marriage dissolution terms.

To explain the features and potential advantages of collaborative divorce in NY, this article will discuss its definition and main differences from uncontested cases. We will analyze the purpose of a collaborative divorce in New York and situations when it may be inappropriate.

What Is a Collaborative Divorce?

A collaborative divorce process is a way to terminate a marriage without numerous court battles, mutual resentments, and conflicts. Choosing it, parties cooperate from the beginning to the end of the procedure, trying to reach an agreement on all the divorce terms, including property division, child custody, maintenance, etc. In collaborative law, divorce often takes place with the participation of lawyers, financial specialists, and mediators.

How does a divorce work? To begin with, spouses discuss whether they are ready to work together and resolve disagreements without the intervention of a judge. Then, each of them hires a lawyer to represent their interests and help in drawing up a Marital Settlement Agreement.

After discussing the specifics of the divorce case and wishes regarding its resolution with attorneys, spouses can involve additional professionals. During the first joint meeting with lawyers and their teams, if any, spouses can sign a no-court agreement. It means they refuse to go to court but consent to discuss the marriage dissolution terms openly to overcome any disagreements. If parties still cannot resolve disputes and decide to settle them in court, they will likely need to hire new lawyers. It can result in extra expenses and significant time loss.

The main purpose of the collaborative divorce project is to reach an agreement on child-related and property division issues with the help of involved experts and attorneys. Choosing it, both spouses can expect the outcome of divorce to be based on their own interests and not the judge’s decisions. In addition, a couple will likely spend less time on this divorce than when attending multiple court hearings. Spouses will be able to maintain friendly relations, which is crucial if minor children are involved.

Many people confuse the concept of uncontested divorce with collaborative divorce meaning. In fact, these are two separate approaches. If you and your spouse managed to reach an agreement on the divorce terms on your own or with the involvement of a mediator from the very beginning, it means your case is not contested. However, if you have numerous disputes but are willing to cooperate with the engagement of lawyers and third parties to resolve them peacefully, it will be a collaborative divorce.

Reasons to Get a Collaborative Divorce

What you should choose – collaborative divorce vs. traditional divorce – depends on your desire and ability to cooperate with the other party. If you wish to avoid contentious court proceedings, collaborative divorce may be an option you have been looking for. You will not have to give up your interests since the lawyers involved will work to ensure that both spouses are satisfied with the joint agreement.

Can a divorce lawyer represent both parties? Each of you will hire your own attorney to represent you throughout the settlement process. This approach has many advantages; the main benefits of collaborative divorce are the following:

Faster Divorce Resolution

Contested divorces can last from 6 to 9 months or even a year or more. Their duration depends on many factors, including the number of issues to resolve, the workload of the court, the number of expected trials, etc. The longer parties cannot agree on the divorce terms, the later their marriage dissolution will be finalized.

In contrast, a collaborative law process is usually faster and less time-consuming than a contested one. Although spouses need to spend time looking for an attorney and working with each other, they do not have to attend several court hearings to resolve child custody or asset division issues. The spouses will sign the Marital Agreement and submit it to the court with other papers. If the judge approves it, they will grant a divorce without scheduling additional court hearings.


Collaborative divorce cost usually consists of expenses for hiring lawyers, involving additional professionals, and court fees. It can range from $3,000-$5,000 to $7,000-$9,000, while a contested one sometimes reaches $15,000-$20,000.

In most cases, you will pay for attorneys’ help on an hourly basis. Given that the collaborative process usually takes less time than preparing for a disputed marriage dissolution, you will likely need fewer meetings with a lawyer. In addition, you are unlikely to incur extra expenses that often arise in contested cases due to the appearance of new conflicts.

Reduction in Post-Divorce Litigation

Spouses who divorce after concluding a Marital Settlement Agreement typically do not have disputes regarding its terms in the future. If satisfied with the divorce outcomes, they will not file an appeal to review the case or change the court decision. Since all the marriage termination issues are detailed in the agreement, they will not need to file additional motions to resolve some contestations separately.

If ex-spouses have children and should communicate after the divorce, it will help them to find a compromise in any disputed situation that may arise over time, for example, when children become older and their needs change.

Transparent Communication and Disclosure of Assets

Parties using a collaborative practice to divorce are required to be honest in disclosing financial information. An open, non-confrontational environment when reaching an agreement between them is very important. They can express their opinion honestly without fear of condemnation and hiding their views on the division of assets and liabilities. Under these conditions, parties manage to agree and finalize the process faster and with less stress.

Interest-Based Negotiation

By cooperating with each other, spouses are able to resolve disputes based not on emotions but on their real needs. They should not prove their rightness or blame the other party for their actions. They can discuss the divorce terms and provide arguments to explain their interests frankly. In addition, they will constantly interact with lawyers who will take an active part in ensuring that both parties get the expected result.

Out-of-Court Settlement

The terms of divorce will be based on the Marital Agreement, not a judge’s decision on each specific issue. It reduces the possibility of getting an unexpected outcome, which is common during a traditional divorce process. Spouses decide on marriage termination issues before attending the court hearing, so the judge will only review the agreements without the need to discuss any disputes in the courtroom. An out-of-court divorce is an option for those who do not want their disagreements to become public.

Preservation of Relationships

Divorcing by mutual consent, parties usually manage to maintain respectful relations. It is vital if the couple has minor children. The absence of quarrels between spouses has a positive effect on the mental health of children and allows everyone to start a new phase of life without extra stress. Even if parties do not remain good friends, there is a high probability they will not become enemies, as sometimes happens in contested cases.

When Not to Get a Collaborative Divorce?

Even if you are striving for a peaceful divorce, collaborative practice may not be the best solution for you. It can be suitable for cases when both spouses are ready to act jointly and reach a compromise for a faster and less difficult dissolution. However, a cooperative divorce will most likely not work if:

  1. Your spouse refuses to negotiate a divorce. You may be willing to analyze your disagreements and even make concessions, but if the other party does not want the same, you will not get the desired result. In most cases, it will lead to a waste of time.
  2. An uncooperative spouse in divorce manipulates, blackmails, or behaves cruelly towards you. If the other party can cause you physical or emotional distress and is dangerous, any negotiations may be futile. If you are afraid to become a victim of your spouse, it is safer to have your case settled in court.

One of the main disadvantages of collaborative divorce is that its expenses may sometimes get really high due to disability of spouses to agree. It usually results in the dissipating of money and time. Sometimes, spouses may have so many disputes that it may be better to use a traditional way of ending the marriage rather than trying to negotiate out of court. If the relationship between parties is extremely strained and they do not want to recognize each other’s interests, the only way out is to go to court.

You can avoid a time-consuming and extended divorce if you decide to agree on its terms by cooperating with each other. You will not get a completely effortless procedure, but you can try to terminate your marital relationship without extra insults and stress.

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