September 17, 2021

How Collaborative Law Can Lead to a Healthier Divorce

Divorce doesn’t have to be a destructive or tumultuous experience. With alternative dispute resolution processes available in North Carolina, a marriage can end without even stepping foot into a courtroom. These types of divorce options are often considered healthier alternatives to litigation. In traditional litigation, the divorcing spouses, along with their children, are often subjected to long, drawn out, and expensive courtroom battles with a win-lose mentality. However, with alternative dispute resolution processes, there is a win-win mentality.

While you may be familiar with mediation and settlement as forms of alternative dispute resolutions, there is another type of out-of-court proceeding that is increasing in popularity. The collaborative law process is one of the fasting growing types of law nationwide. It was created as an approach to conflict resolution in 1990 by a family law attorney based in Minnesota. Stuart (Stu) Webb’s movement, which became known as Collaborative Law, has spread throughout the United States and other countries including Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. It came to North Carolina in the late 1990s, and in 2003 it was incorporated in Chapter 50 of the North Carolina General Statutes.

As it continues to grow, collaborative family law practices are becoming increasingly popular throughout North Carolina. Here at Michael & Russell, PLLC, we are proud to be the Wilmington area’s first law firm that focuses on collaborative divorce matters. We truly believe that this type of family law practice allows a healthier outcome for all involved during the process of divorce. Our attorneys, Ashley Michael and Ashley-Nicole Russell, are passionate about spreading awareness for this type of law and its benefits for families in North Carolina. As founding board members for the North Carolina Collaborative Attorney Network (NC-CAN), they work to share information and create understanding for the collaborative divorce process. NC-CAN, which is statewide trade association for collaborative divorce, was established in 2017 to help North Carolinians make informed decisions about their divorce options and can find experienced professionals to guide them through the legal divorce process.

The Collaborative Divorce Practice

Since its inception, the collaborative divorce concept has become a well-respected practice. The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP), a global resource for learning about and promoting collaborative practices, states three core elements that form each party’s commitment to the collaborative divorce process.

  1. Negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution without having courts decide issues
  2. Maintain open communication and information sharing
  3. Create shared solutions acknowledging the highest priorities of all

Through these elements, the divorcing parties agree that they will stay out of court and will not resort to litigation. We believe that staying out of court is truly the only thing that spouses need to agree on before starting the collaborative divorce process. In addition, the collaborative practice has several other components which show its dedication to a healthy divorce process for all involved. This includes:

During the divorce process, each spouse will have their own attorney. These attorneys are able to serve as guides and advocates for their respective clients. Each spouse will meet separately with their attorney to discuss the process and their desired outcome. In addition, there will be several joint meetings with both spouse and their attorneys. These four-way meetings take place to allow the clients to determine their parental plan, financial plan, and relational plan. Throughout these discussions and negotiations, the divorcing spouses work with their attorneys to find an outcome that is a healthy resolution for all parties involved.

Benefits of Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative law is known as a practice that puts the needs of children at the forefront by supporting shared parenting where the standard is for both parents to be involved in their children’s lives. This process doesn’t treat child custody as a prize to be won during the divorce. In fact, Attorney Ashley-Nicole Russell researched how the traditional divorce litigation model impacts future generations. The findings in her book, The Cure for Divorce Culture, show that children of litigated divorce have an increased risk of complications in personal relationships, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and violence:

Collaborative divorce offers a win-win mentality, where all parties, including the spouses’ children, are satisfied with the outcome. While the divorce process can be an emotional journey, attorneys at Michael & Russell are devoted to helping clients every step of the way. In addition to working with a collaborative-trained attorney, divorcing spouses have the option of working with third party, neutral experts which results in a multidisciplinary approach to building a broader Separation Agreement best fitting the needs of the family and their new normal. They may consist of divorce coaches, child specialists, and/or financial experts, depending on the needs of the divorcing spouses.

Since a collaborative divorce doesn’t involve a court room or a judge making decisions, this process is also known to save clients time. Typically, the collaborative divorce process can take place during the one-year separation that is required in North Carolina. Once the one-year’s separation is over, the collaborative divorce process may be near completion, so the spouses can quickly file for their divorce. This allows all parties to move on with their lives thanks to a healthy collaborative divorce process.

We’re Honored to Serve You and Your Family

At Michael & Russell, PLLC, you can trust that we are committed to serving you and your family with compassion and empathy. Through our New Hanover County office, we are able to provide collaborative divorce and family law services to all of southeastern North Carolina. Please reach out to our Wilmington-based legal team at 910-255-5722 to learn more about working with us for your collaborative divorce or family law needs.