By nature, divorce can be, at best, a difficult and expensive process. From the inherent emotionality of child custody and relocation, to the complexities associated with the distribution of assets and spousal support, the legal costs of dissolving the marriage can leave each party with a fraction of the marital estate they created. Litigation costs for divorce can spiral and balloon, leaving parents no choice but to tap into the college funds intended for their children’s education, unexpectedly burdening children. Factor in time delays and the bureaucracy of the court system itself, the prospect can rapidly escalate from intimidating to outright daunting. Fortunately, less intimidating, less expensive, and less time-consuming dispute resolution options are rapidly integrating into the mainstay of family law. Alternatives for “going to court” exist. Utilizing them can reduce costs, time, and family friction and preserve the marital estate for the post-divorce phase of life. This blog post will focus on Cooperative Divorces.
Cooperative divorce is like collaborative divorce in that the parties and lawyers sign an agreement to negotiate in good faith. The team commits to full disclosure and integrity with an effort to reach an agreement that works for the family.
However, the key difference between collaborative and cooperative is that in a cooperative divorce, if and when negotiations break down, the team may opt to go to court to break an impasse. There is no pledge to stay out of court, nor a requirement to find new lawyers if litigation ensues. Therefore, the players in a cooperative divorce case can become less than “cooperative” with the threat of going to court ever present.
Experienced divorce lawyers may engage in the process of “cooperative divorce” without realizing it. A competent divorce lawyer will work cooperatively with the opposing side by engaging in voluntary discovery (information) exchange, communicating to resolve interim issues involving custody or support or the payment of debt pending a full resolution.
Lawyers for both sides should encourage and facilitate cooperation in the form of out-of-court meetings, with or without clients. Reasonable lawyers will work cooperatively with the other side in order to reduce the acrimony and costs. Children’s health and family finances depend upon cooperation, reasonableness, and compromise. In the cooperative divorce, joint experts, such as accountants and appraisers, may be retained, but there is no neutral arbiter, judge, or mediator. Parties can only control the outcome through compromise and resolution.
The cooperative divorce is an adversarial process. Therefore, each party will have and pay for their own lawyers. Costs can be controlled if the lawyers are reasonable and encourage their clients to compromise. If negotiations break down, litigation will ensue and costs will multiply.
This post is part of the blog series “Choosing Your Approach to Resolution”.
To explore the other topics in this series, follow these links:
Mediation – Giving Peace a Chance
Arbitration – Select Your Judge for Final Resolution
Early Neutral Evaluation – Testing the Waters
Collaborative Divorce – Keep out of Court
If you would like to explore your alternative resolution options, you should speak with an experienced West Chester attorney. At Potts, Shoemaker, and Grossman, LLC, our attorneys are prepared to assist you in finding the appropriate resolution approach for your individual situation. To schedule a confidential consultation, contact us at (610) 840-2626.
*This blog post is an excerpt from the article “Choosing Your Approach to Resolution” as published in Family Advocate, Volume 43, Number 1, Summer 2020 as written by Rochelle “Shelly” Grossman, Esquire.