WHAT IS COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE?
Collaborative divorce is the legal practice of settling matrimonial issues such as child custody and asset division outside the court and through mediation and negotiation. Unlike litigation, this process provides an interest-based and client-centric approach, which enables both parties, with the help of their attorneys, to reach an agreement that meets their needs.
WHAT IS THE AIM OF COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE?
The primary aim of collaborative divorce is to avoid court litigation altogether, as well as the physical, emotional and financial burdens that come with it. With the assistance of a Collaborative Family Practice (CFP) lawyer, estranged couples are able to explore and exhaust all options to resolve issues in a way that is beneficial for the entire family, especially if children are concerned.
HOW DOES THE COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE PROCESS WORK?
Collaborative divorce requires each party to hire an attorney to represent him/her. The choice of lawyer is crucial to get positive outcomes. Ideally, one should hire a family law expert who is not only accredited by the Singapore Mediation Centre, but collaboratively-trained, particularly in the area of dispute resolution.
The collaborative divorce process officially starts once the couple and their respective lawyers sign the Participation Agreement (PA), which states both parties’ commitment to avoid court litigations or any legal threat. More importantly, the PA entails the voluntary and full disclosure of all required information from both parties, as well as their commitment to work together in a civil, objective and respectful manner to arrive at a mutually beneficial settlement.
The whole collaborative divorce process takes place over a series of face-to-face, 4-way meetings, which are typically scheduled 2 to 4 weeks apart. These meetings serve as a venue where both parties can present their issues and with the assistance of their lawyers, negotiate possible resolutions. In an interdisciplinary system of collaborative divorce, meetings may be attended by different professionals such as a financial adviser and child expert in order to assist with the case.
Once the parties involved have reached a full agreement, it is up to the lawyers to draft the final settlement, which will then be processed and filed with the Court. Upon approval, this draft becomes a legally binding Court Order.
WHY CHOOSE COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE PROCESS WHEN THE MATTER CAN BE SETTLED AT COURT?
Collaborative divorces are non-adversarial, and less time-consuming, costly and stressful compared to traditional litigation proceedings. In addition, this process enables both parties to voluntarily come to terms with arrangements that best benefit the interests of the whole family without any pressure from legal threats or the Court.
CAN THE PARTIES DECIDE ON ALL MATTERS DURING THE COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE PROCCESS?
Yes. In a collaborative divorce, the affected parties are given full rein on how to resolve issues concerning every aspect of the divorce, from child custody to property division. The attorneys present are only there to provide legal advice and help couples exhaust all options when settling disputes.
IS COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE BETTER THAN THE TRADITIONAL DIVORCE PROCESS?
While a collaborative divorce does pose certain benefits, especially in terms of fostering a good relationship between the two parties, it is not for everyone. There are cases when couples are unable to come to a mutual agreement, and will require Court processes to settle disputes. A collaborative divorce is only ideal if both parties can make a commitment to fully cooperate and effectively communicate with each other within a safe and respectful environment.
WILL I STILL HIRE A DIVORCE LAWYER?
As mentioned earlier, a collaborative divorce is not for everyone. Couples who are considering divorce, annulment or separation should still hire a divorce lawyer to determine whether a collaborative divorce or a traditional litigation procedure is suitable for their case.
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