How Is a Collaborative Divorce Different from a Traditional Divorce?
First, let us define what is meant by a “traditional divorce.”
A traditional divorce, also known as “Divorce Court” or “litigated divorce,” happens in the courtroom, with a judge.
HOW DOES A TRADITIONAL DIVORCE BEGIN?
It typically begins when a spouse files a Petition for divorce, also known as a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.” Once a Petition is filed, a series of timelines and deadlines begins. For example, within 20 days of being served with a Petition for divorce, the other spouse, also known as the “Respondent,” must file an “Answer.”
The Answer simply admits or denies all the allegations in the other spouse’s Petition. It must be filed and served within 20 days of when you were served with your spouse’s Petition. If you fail to file and serve your Answer within the 20-day deadline, you risk what is called a “Default.”
WHAT IS A DEFAULT?
A default means that you are telling the court that you do not wish to participate in the case. The divorce will move forward without you and the court judge will make decisions based upon what the other spouse wants and the evidence that he or she presents.
WHAT IS MANDATORY DISCLOSURE?
After the Petition and Answer, there is a 45-day period of time when you have to exchange financial disclosure with your spouse. You have to exchange IRS Tax Returns, bank and credit card statements, retirement plan statements, paystubs, deeds, leases, and other financial documents.
WHAT IS DISCOVERY?
Discovery is the term used to describe the formal request for and exchange of information. There are many discovery methods or tools to get information from your spouse. The following is a list of some of the discovery tools typically used during a litigated divorce:
- Request for Production of Documents
- Request for Inspection
- Request for Admissions
- Physical and Mental Examinations
When a formal discovery request is made, there are deadlines that must be met for a response. Discovery can take time and can be expensive. For example, the cost to take a 3-hour deposition of your spouse could be $3000 or more when you include the cost hiring a Court Reporter and the transcript he or she will prepare.
DO I HAVE TO GO TO MEDIATION?
Then, you will be required to attend a mediation session. A mediation is simply a meeting with you, your spouse, your lawyers, and a Mediator. A Mediator is a person who will help you and your spouse communicate in a way that helps you resolve the issues in your divorce.
DO I HAVE A TEAM OF PROFESSIONALS WORKING FOR ME?
Typically, your collaborative divorce lawyer would be the only member of your team. Your divorce may require that you hire experts to help the judge understand some things about your situation.
For example, you might have to hire a Forensic Accountant to trace money or perform an analysis about the lifestyle you and your spouse had while you were married. Or maybe you need a Vocational Expert to provide evidence and testimony about your spouse’s ability to earn a living. You might also need a Business Valuation Expert to perform a valuation analysis of a business you or your spouse own.
These experts can be very expensive and your costs for these experts will likely be in the thousands.
WHO PAYS FOR MY LAWYER AND OTHER EXPERTS?
In a traditional divorce, most of the time each spouse is responsible for his or her own attorney’s fees and costs, along with the fees and costs of any experts. Sometimes, depending upon the financial circumstances of each of you, a court judge may order one spouse to contribute to the fees and costs of the other spouse. However, this is not guaranteed and it may take a long time to get a decision from your judge regarding any request for fees and costs.
In fact, you are required to attend one mediation before you can have a hearing before your judge on any request for temporary financial support from your spouse. And, sometime it can take a long time to get to mediation. So you might have to fund your own attorney’s fees and expert fees.
WHAT IS A TRIAL?
If you do not settle in mediation, you may have to resort to letting your court judge make all the decisions for you. This is called a trial. Trials are incredibly expensive and take a lot of time and emotional energy.
They can last half a day, a full day, or multiple days, depending upon the issues that need to be resolved. Sometimes they need to be continued. This means that you must wait until some day in the future to continue and hopefully complete your trial. Because many of our courts are backlogged, this could be up to 6 months or longer. And, if someone does not like the judge’s decision, they can appeal the decision which may then result in another trial.
WHAT ARE MOTIONS?
At any point during your litigated divorce, someone may file a “Motion.” A motion is a request to the court judge for something. Most motions will also require a hearing before the judge so that they can hear evidence and decide if the motion or request should be granted. It takes time to prepare and file motions, and to schedule and prepare for hearings on the motions.
HOW LONG DOES A LITIGATED DIVORCE TAKE TO FINISH?
The length of time depends upon a lot of factors.
It depends upon the court’s calendar and when the judge is available. It depends upon whether you and your spouse follow the rules and comply with any court orders. It depends upon how many motions are filed that need your judge to decide.
HOW MUCH DOES A TRADITIONAL DIVORCE COST?
The fees and costs for a traditional divorce can exceed $100,000 depending upon the following:
- Who you hire as your lawyer
- Who your spouse hires as their lawyer
- How much you and your spouse argue and fight over the issues
- Whether you and your spouse are willing to compromise
- How complex the facts of your case are
- How many assets and debts you have
- Whether you have children
- Whether one of you wants ongoing financial support, a/k/a alimony, from your spouse
- How many experts you need
- How many depositions are needed
- How much discovery has to be conducted
- Whether you have a trial
SUMMARY OF A TRADITIONAL DIVORCE
COST – It can be very expensive. Divorces that go to trial can cost up to $100,000 or more.
TIME – It can take a very long time to finish with an average of about 18 months from start to finish.
FORMALITY – It is very formal with a lot of rules to follow.
FLEXIBILITY – Little to none. A court judge must listen to evidence and apply the laws to the facts of your case. Your judge is also prohibited from making decisions about anything not requested in your filed documents.
TRANSPARENCY – Questionable. Many spouses try to hide assets or income. There is no agreement between you and your spouse to be honest or transparent in a traditional divorce.
PRIVACY – None. Your divorce is in the public record. Any member of the public can watch your hearings and trial and get access to your filed documents.
HOW DOES COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE BEGIN?
A collaborative divorce begins with two spouses agreeing to collaborative divorce and signing what is called a “Participation Agreement.” This is a contract between you and your spouse that contains all the terms and conditions about your collaborative divorce.
For example, you and your spouse will agree to be civil and respectful of each other and to provide full transparency and honesty regarding your finances and your children. Honesty and transparency is not a requirement in a traditional divorce. In fact, many people go to great lengths to hide or withhold evidence and information.
This is very different from how a traditional divorce begins.
Nothing must be filed and served to begin a collaborative divorce. This will save you time and money.
WILL I HAVE A TEAM OF PROFESSIONALS?
Yes! You and your spouse will have a professional team working for the benefit of both of you.
Your professional team will usually have a financial professional, like a Certified Public Accountant (“CPA”) or a Certified Financial Planner (“CFP”). You will also have the benefit of a mental health professional, such as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, psychologist or psychiatrist, or licensed family and marriage counselor.
Your team might also include other professionals like a child specialist, investment advisor, a real estate professional, a tax attorney, or anyone else who may be useful for your situation.
WHO PAYS FOR THE PROFESSIONALS?
When you and your spouse agree to a collaborative divorce, you agree to pay for the professional fees from your joint marital funds. In other words, neither of you are left out in the cold trying to find a way to pay for your lawyer and the other professionals.
Unfortunately, in many traditional divorces, each spouse is on their own to find money to pay for a lawyer. And, unfortunately, some spouses will intentionally remove the other spouse’s access to bank accounts and other sources of cash. This leaves the spouse with no access to funds unable to afford a lawyer.
Choosing collaborative divorce eliminates this problem and ensures that each of you has access to your money to pay for the legal services you need in your collaborative divorce.
CAN THERE BE A DEFAULT IN A COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE?
No. Because collaborative divorce is an out-of-court alternative to getting divorced, there are no formal timelines or deadlines that must be adhered to.
IS THERE FORMAL DISCOVERY?
No. The discovery process is informal and flexible in a collaborative divorce.
You and your spouse agree at the beginning to be honest and transparent regarding your finances, so there is no need for the formal discovery of a traditional divorce.
Your financial professional will help you gather all of the important financial information to help you make fully informed decisions in your divorce.
Sometimes, one spouse might take full responsibility for handling all of the family finances. Unfortunately, the other spouse does not stay informed about the family finances and is comfortable letting their spouse handle all the finances.
Unfortunately, when a divorce happens, the uninformed spouse is at an incredible disadvantage. Your collaborative financial professional will take time to help the uninformed spouse become knowledgeable about the family finances.
IS MEDIATION REQUIRED IN A COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE?
No. In fact, mediation never happens in most collaborative cases.
The only time a mediation might be used in a collaborative divorce is when you and your spouse have reached an impasse. In other words, you just cannot get past an issue or find any area of compromise to settle an issue. When that happens, your collaborative team may recommend using mediation to get past the stumbling block.
WILL I HAVE TO GO TO TRIAL?
No. Choosing collaborative divorce means you never have to appear before a judge. You keep all the power to make important decisions about you and your family, so there is no need to resort to having a judge make those decisions.
WHAT MOTIONS ARE FILED IN COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE?
None with very rare exceptions.
This means there will be no hearings on the motions and no court appearances required.
HOW LONG DOES A COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE TAKE?
Florida statistics tell us that over 90% of collaborative divorces finish in less than 12 months with many cases taking only 3 to 6 months to complete. Compared to a traditional divorce, this can save you a lot of time and money.
HOW MUCH DOES A COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE COST?
Based upon Florida statistics, most collaborative cases cost a married couple $40,000 or less. Your collaborative divorce might cost $7000, $10,000 or $20,000. And much of the cost is within your control.
Since you and your spouse retain all of the power to make decisions about the issues like custody, visitation, splitting your assets and debts, and other things that are important to you, you control how long the process takes.
If you and your spouse are able to reach settlement on all the issues in a few months, your collaborative divorce will cost less than someone else who took 6 to 12 months to finish their case.
SUMMARY OF COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE
COST – It can be much more affordable than a traditional divorce.
TIME – The probability of your case finishing in less than 12 months is 92% which is much faster than a traditional divorce.
FORMALITY – It is very informal. Meetings happen in the comfort of an office rather than a courtroom.
FLEXIBILITY – You have a lot of flexibility. Your collaborative meetings happen on your schedule. You do not have to rely on a court judge having an opening on his or her court calendar. Your meetings can happen in the evenings and weekends.
PRIVACY – Complete privacy and confidentiality. The details of your divorce will not be in the public record. Members of the public will not be able to see the details of your family’s finances, who you work for, and how much you spend each month.
TRANSPARENCY – You and your spouse agree to be honest and transparent regarding your finances, incomes, and your children.
CONTACT A SKILLED, COMPASSIONATE AND EXPERIENCED ORLANDO COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE LAWYER TODAY
Starting a divorce can be difficult. Divorce is the second, most stressful event someone will ever experience. It is important to have a guide who can help you identify your rights and responsibilities that you might overlook trying to do it yourself. Having an attorney who focuses their practice 100% on family law and divorce is essential because you need a professional who understands everything about divorce. The anger, the fear, the betrayal, and the anxiety about your financial future.
Divorce and divorce-related situations is all we do here at Leap Frog Divorce. We’re ready to help you today, and we have financing options.
To Talk With AJ