Collaborative Divorce

When it comes to dissolving a marriage, the process most people are familiar with is the traditional method of resolving a divorce using our system of justice which is rooted in the adversarial process. And although the vast majority of divorce cases are resolved by negotiated agreement between the parties, if parties are unable to reach a settlement in family law matters using the traditional approach, the parties must go to court and present their cases before a judge, the ultimate goal being to convince the judge to rule in favor of your desired outcome. Litigation has both advantages and shortcomings. While appropriate in many situations, this may not be the ideal avenue for every couple seeking a divorce.

For couples in a low-conflict situation where there is a mutual goal to leave the marriage as amicably as possible while achieving fairness, Collaborative Divorce may be a good option.
Some benefits of Collaborative Divorce to consider include:

  • The “final say” will not be in the hands of a judge
  • Potentially less costly than traditional divorce, especially when heavy litigation is involved
  • Often, this option is less adversarial and more amicable than traditional divorce

At Purcell Law, we have helped many divorcing couples reach reciprocally satisfying resolutions in a civil and respectful manner by using various dispute resolution approaches, including Collaborative Divorce.

Working Together To Reach A Mutually Agreeable Resolution

In the unique process of Collaborative Divorce, each party retains a lawyer specially trained to handle the Collaborative Divorce case. The lawyers representing both parties are not at odds, as is the case with divorce litigation, but rather work as a team to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.

The collaborative team not only includes the divorcing couple and their lawyers, but can also include a financial specialist, a divorce coach, and a child specialist if children are involved.

Signing A Participation Agreement

The Collaborative Divorce process commences with the signing of a participation agreement. By signing this agreement, both parties and their team members agree to resolve all disputes outside of court and in a respectful, confidential manner. The Participation Agreement also includes information about the Collaborative Divorce process, such as its rules and expectations.

Settling And Resolving Collaborative Divorce Cases

In our experience, arriving at a resolution in collaborative cases typically takes about the same amount of time as traditional divorce cases. The lawyers will draft the formal agreement once both parties agree on a settlement, and enter the agreed final orders with a court, which legally dissolves the marriage. These steps complete the collaborative proceeding with the court.

“What If We Can't Come To An Agreement?” – Terminating The Collaborative Process

The Collaborative Divorce process is not right for everyone. In some cases, both parties may be unable to come to an agreement. In this event, the collaborative process can be terminated. Once the collaborative process is terminated, both parties can move forward using the traditional method, but may not do so using the attorneys or experts involved during the Collaborative Divorce process. By choosing to terminate the collaborative process and move forward with the traditional dispute resolution process, both parties are essentially agreeing to:

  • Retain new counsel – collaborative attorneys cannot represent the parties in any future litigation or traditional adversarial process, and
  • Start casework over – in court, you generally cannot use the work that was done in the collaborative process.

For those who like the idea of minimizing conflict but without the risk of having to hire new divorce lawyers and starting the process over again, we recommend considering the Cooperative Divorce dispute resolution model.

Is Collaborative Divorce Right For You?

Divorcing is not always an easy process, regardless of the method you choose. Our team of skilled professionals will ensure that you choose the best dispute resolution process for your unique situation. While Collaborative Divorce is generally a more amicable option, it does not mean you and your spouse have to agree at all times or on all points. Choosing this method does, however, require both parties to be willing to understand one another’s point of view and to treat each other with respect in order to arrive at a mutually beneficial resolution.

Collaborative Divorce also requires a significant amount of time and focus on communication, four-way meetings, and engaged processing between the parties themselves, with their attorneys, and with collateral professionals involved in the case. As such, parties should be equally secure and confident in their ability to openly and honestly communicate with one another.

Collaborative Divorce may also be a suitable option for non-traditional families, such as couples in same-sex relationships or couples in non-marital relationships. The laws governing these family relationships are constantly evolving, and our lawyers are at the forefront of this emerging are of family law.

Purcell Law will help you navigate through the unique issues and process involved in Collaborative Divorce, whether you are in a traditional or non-traditional family situation. If you are considering divorce and would like to explore your options for resolving your divorce, we encourage you to contact us and schedule a consultation. The Collaborative process is just one of several approaches available for couples seeking a divorce. We will help you identify the process, whether Collaborative or otherwise, that is best for your particular circumstances.


If you need assistance with a collaborative divorce, we invite you to contact our firm to schedule a consultation appointment.

For additional resources visit Collaborative Professionals of Washington. The Collaborative Professionals of Washington (CPW) is a non-profit association of independent professionals from the fields of law, mental health, and finance.

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