Coming to Beresford Booth in 2023: Collaborative Divorce!
Attorneys with Beresford Booth recently completed comprehensive training on Collaborative Divorce and will be offering this option to their clients beginning in 2023.
What is Collaborative Divorce? – The Facts
Collaborative Divorce is NOT what you think it is. It is not divorcing people trying to work together, although that is part of it. It is not trying to agree on everything, although that is possible. It is not trying to be amicable. No, Collaborative Divorce is a statutorily based process, wherein a team of professionals help you and your spouse work together to meet your needs and the needs of your family in the divorce process. Often those spouses engaged in Collaborative Divorce are not amicable or friendly, and the usual hard emotions associated with divorce are almost always present.
The Statute: RCW 7.77, The “Uniform Collaborative Law Act”
The Washington State statute that outlines the law related to Collaborative Divorce and other collaborative legal processes is RCW 7.77. The Collaborative Divorce process requires each party to retain an attorney trained in the Collaborative Law process, and at the beginning of the process the attorneys and clients meet in a four-way meeting to sign a Participation Agreement under RCW 7.77.030. At the meeting, the parties and their attorneys agree on high-end goals, outline the collaborative process they will be engaging in, and deal with any immediate temporary needs such as child support or housing. If the parties have a current pending dissolution, they can ask the court to stay the proceedings under RCW 7.77.050. If emergency orders are needed during the collaborative process, the Court can still issue them, under RCW 7.77.060. Lawyers who are representing parties in the collaborative process cannot later represent them in court in a dissolution. RCW 7.77.080. Both parties in the collaborative process agree in the Participation Agreement to make full disclosure of all information without formal discovery, including financial and medical information. RCW 7.77.100. Before signing the Participation Agreement, the parties must be fully informed of all aspects of the collaborative law process, and the relevant rules pertaining to the process. RCW 7.77.120. Collaborative lawyers are required to assess whether any coercive or violent relationship exists between the divorcing parties, and although this does not necessarily preclude a collaborative process, proper precautions and safeguards must be put in place in the collaborative process if it is to move forward. RCW 7.77.130. Most aspects of the collaborative process are confidential and cannot be used in court at a later date, much like mediation. RCW 7.77.150.
Professionals Involved in Collaborative Divorce
Several other professionals trained in Collaborative Law also are part of the process as needed. Both spouses will work with a financial specialist, gathering financial information and working on the financial aspects of the divorce. The spouse will also work with a divorce coach, also trained in the collaborative process. Among other things, the divorce coach helps parties discuss concerns and identify emotional triggers that might sabotage the collaborative process. If the parties have children, the divorce coach may work on a parenting plan with them, and sometimes a child mental health professional may also be necessary. Other professionals who may be involved depending on the needs of the parties include CPAs, vocational specialists, business valuators and appraisers.
Benefits of Collaborative Divorce
Spouses who have gone through the Collaborative Divorce process in their dissolutions report higher levels of satisfaction with the outcome of their dissolution, better relationships with their spouses and being able to co-parent together in positive and healthy ways for their children. Collaborative Divorce is a holistic approach that provides an extremely structured way for spouses to work through difficult conflicts with the help of highly trained professionals. Parenting issues, divisions of assets, spousal support—all aspects of dissolution can be handled in the collaborative law process, and the success rate is very high when trained professionals engage in the process with the clients and their families.