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The Advantages of Collaborative vs. Litigated Divorce in Massachusetts

Oct 08, 2016 06:52AM ● By Ellen Wright

Considering a divorce can be daunting enough without having to decide which type of divorce you need to pursue.  The good news is that you have options and can choose a type that best suits your needs, individual set of circumstances, and legal interests. Two main types of divorce in Massachusetts are collaborative and litigated. Collaborative consists of a non-litigated, non-traditional approach, whereas a litigated divorce is more traditional and handled through the court system. Although the law is the same, collaborative divorce differs significantly from traditional divorce so it is important to understand the differences.  Choosing to handle your divorce in a collaborative manner can be a beneficial option for many reasons, including saving time, stress and money.  With this in mind, consider the following benefits of pursuing a collaborative approach to your divorce.

How Collaborative Divorces Are Handled

While a litigated divorce is usually combative in nature, a collaborative divorce encourages mutual agreements without the threat and pressure of litigation. A collaborative divorce is handled outside of the court system in an effort to satisfy both parties with an outcome that is satisfactory through mutual agreement. Collaborative attorneys are professionals who are specifically trained to assist couples in efficiently working through difficult yet necessary decision-making to arrive at resolutions that make sense for all involved.  Jointly retained experts will join the collective efforts and are hired to work for both parties to alleviate the “battle of experts” that a litigated divorce can create. Unlike a mediated divorce, a collaborative divorce provides each party with representation. However, all parties and their attorneys gather in an effort of creating solutions at private negotiation meetings.

 Benefits of a Collaborative Divorce in Massachusetts

The advantages of collaborative divorce can be substantial for clients. The court system in Massachusetts is under-funded and considerably backed up.  This is particularly true in Middlesex County.  Parties can wait weeks, and in some cases months, to get a court date.  The goals of conducting a collaborative divorce strive to keep parties out of court and to handle all negotiations privately in order to reach a mutual settlement without court involvement.

At its nature, a collaborative divorce seeks to find solutions to the complicated issues that can arise during a divorce while protecting the needs and wishes of both parties collectively. Removing the combative nature and “warfare” of a litigated divorce encourages parties to maintain amicable relationships, which can be especially important if children are involved. Attorneys can also conduct negotiation conversations without the presence of the parties and provide a summary of possible agreements, if desirable. Couples that own a business together may also reap the benefits of a collaborative approach because a variety of aspects can be agreed upon that affect a couple’s life during a divorce. A negotiated approach can also result in spending fewer resources and less time on achieving a divorce than one that is represented and litigated.

Many divorce attorneys, frustrated by the traditional representation system, have redefined their practice of law in favor of a collaborative approach. For divorcing couples who wish to dissolve their marriage using a less adversarial and more results-based approach, the collaborative method is an appealing alternative over a litigated divorce. The wealth of benefits a collaborative divorce offers, in terms of resources and time, will benefit divorcing couples by helping them maintain an amicable relationship during the divorce process and in years to come.

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