Understanding the Difference Between Collaborative Divorce and Litigation

alternate dispute resolution

Everyone knows that divorce is painful, but many people aren’t aware of its long-term impacts. Recent research shows that it can contribute to chronic conditions like depression, substance abuse, heart disease, metabolic issues and even cancer.

Luckily, alternative dispute resolution services can make the process slightly easier. Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of collaborative divorce vs. litigation.

What Is Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative divorce is a process where spouses work together to amicably resolve their disputes. Both parties sign a legal document stating that they wish to forego court proceedings. They then work together, with attorney assistance, to reach agreements designed to benefit both parties.

In a collaborative divorce, both spouses promise to show each other mutual respect. Ideally, everyone is open about their needs and goals. This means that there’s no room for animosity when coming to agreements, and both parties must work together to come to an amicable conclusion.

A core benefit of the collaborative process is that the parties maintain control over the process and outcome of their divorce. They make final decisions together with the help of a lawyer. Outside parties don’t order them to do anything or impose heavy-handed legal mandates on them.

Collaborative divorce is a voluntary process and offers a less stressful and in some ways a superior alternative to litigation assuming that both parties are willing to work together. You also may be able to come to better agreements if you communicate so that everyone is as happy as possible with the results.

The Basics of Divorce Litigation

Divorce litigation is the most common among various types of divorce proceedings. Litigation is a court-based process of resolving disputes, including those between divorcing spouses. You and your ex will go to court and appear before a judge to resolve all issues presented by your divorce, i.e., child custody and support, property and debt division, alimony, etc.

This approach can be much more acrimonious than alternate dispute resolution. Court processes are based on an adversarial system. The aim of both parties and their litigators will be to get them the best possible settlement regardless of the other spouse’s wishes.

The judge controls the entire process. They’re the person who makes final decisions regarding asset distribution, child custody, pet ownership and more. It’s out of your hands, which makes it less appealing for many divorcees.

However, if you cannot come to collaborative agreements voluntarily, court proceedings will be mandatory. After all, decisions must be made one way or another.

Costs and Timelines

Litigation can take a long time. Cases are often delayed due to crowded court calendars. You’ll have little to no control over the timeframe either. The judge makes all relevant decisions.

Collaborative proceedings are often much shorter, because you and your spouse create the timetable. Subject to statutory waiting periods, getting a divorce in Oklahoma will only take as long as you both believe it must.

Costs are also unpredictable. They can escalate over time because of frequent pretrial and post-judgment litigation. You won’t have a clear picture of your finances going into the process.

Collaborative divorce can ease financial stress with more manageable costs. It’s usually less expensive than litigation. The teamwork-based model is efficient in how it uses legal professionals and other experts, so you won’t need to pay as many unnecessary fees.

Communication and Privacy

During litigation, there are limited options designed to facilitate communication between you and your spouse. You likely won’t interact directly at all, and all communication may go through lawyers. When you are forced to face each other, it can be an acrimonious and unpleasant encounter riddled with stress and anger.

To make matters worse, nearly all litigated disputes become a matter of public record. Anyone will have access to your personal business… yes, even that person. Sometimes, it may even become a matter of media attention.

The collaborative process can offer divorcing parties more privacy and can be structured to keep your sensitive information out of public view to the extent permitted by law.

Outside Experts

Litigation proceedings often rely on adversarial experts to support each spouse’s respective position, which costs a lot of money. Engaging experts also entails involving someone in your private personal and financial affairs, which can be an uncomfortable experience.

Alternate dispute resolution means you hire jointly retained specialists. This is far less expensive since you’re hiring fewer people. These specialists give you both guidance at the same time so you can reach productive, mutually beneficial agreements.

Attorney and Court Involvement

Litigations are court-based. Collaborative divorce happens outside of court, which also changes the way that attorneys will interact with your case.

In a court of law, both attorneys argue to win. Winning is great, but someone also loses. This makes divorce stressful and either party may lose something that really matters to them. Combine the nature of court with the high-running emotions of a divorce, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Collaborative divorce lawyers work together rather than against each other. Like the spouses, they work toward mutual solutions. The settlement will almost always be better for everyone.

Begin the Process of Alternate Dispute Resolution

While litigation is the most traditional way of undergoing divorce proceedings, alternate dispute resolution is often preferable. Now that you know some facts about collaborative divorce vs. divorce litigation, it’s time to consider the best process for you and start making plans.