Do I Need a Lawyer for a Collaborative Divorce?
Yes. In a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse will work together to resolve all marriage issues, including asset and debt division, child custody, child support, and spousal support, without litigating the divorce in court.
Both parties must have an experienced divorce lawyer throughout the collaborative process for several reasons:
- Your lawyer’s job is to advocate for your goals in the divorce. You will have a private discussion with your attorney about what you believe would be the ideal resolution of all the issues listed above.
It may not be feasible to get everything you want, but your lawyer will work to help you achieve as many of your goals as possible.
- Your family law attorney will have deep knowledge of family and divorce law in New Mexico and can help you understand what is and isn’t workable. They can also propose alternative solutions if one of your goals is unlikely to be realized.
- Even with couples committed to working together for the greater good, sometimes discussions break down, get off course, or things get heated.
Unlike you and your spouse, your lawyer will have the ability to be objective and keep a cool head. They will do their best to get the discussion back on course and remind everyone of the issue.
After you and your spouse have agreed about all marital issues, your lawyers will prepare a document you will review and sign if you find it satisfactory. The final step is presenting the agreement to a family court judge for inspection.
In most cases, the judge will go ahead and finalize your divorce. If the judge has any concerns about the agreement, they may call a hearing to discuss these.
Usually, any issues can be resolved quickly, and the divorce completed.
The collaborative agreement is legally binding and can’t be changed unless both parties agree to do so, with few exceptions.
If you find out later that your spouse fraudulently misrepresented vital information during the collaborative process, such as the value of assets, you might be able to get your divorce agreement reopened, but you will need evidence of the fraud.
Call your lawyer immediately if you suspect this might be the case.
How Much Does a Collaborative Divorce Cost?
It’s impossible to answer this question without knowing the specifics of your situation. Several factors can increase or decrease the cost of a collaborative divorce.
In general, divorces tend to be less expensive when the couple hasn’t been married long, has few or no marital assets to divide, and has no children. Here are some things to keep in mind about the cost of divorce:
- The more marital assets and debts you have to distribute, the more time you and your attorney need to spend discussing them with your spouse and lawyer. Reviewing financial documents is also time-consuming, and these activities will increase your costs.
However, finding a solution that allows you to keep certain assets may be well worth the added cost.
- In many collaborative divorces, specialists are hired to help with certain areas of concern. For example, if you and your spouse have been together for twenty years and have many assets, you both might benefit from hiring a financial specialist.
This neutral third party will not take sides but will answer questions for both parties about the financial implications of certain choices, such as splitting an investment fund.
In many cases, the financial expert may be able to save both parties money by proposing a solution to various problems.
- Financial experts are also needed when you can’t find all the necessary paperwork or are unsure what you need. They might be able to suggest ways of obtaining the records required or explain what kind of documentation will help.
If there are discrepancies, your financial expert will point them out and help you and your spouse explore what might have happened. Sometimes the answer is as simple as an honest miscalculation or a misplaced document.
However, if your spouse is trying to hide assets or isn’t being upfront with you about something, discussions with a financial specialist may bring the issues to light.
- You will probably need to hire a neutral child specialist if you have children. This person focuses on helping the parents create a parenting plan to support the child’s needs.
The specialist will review all the issues, such as child custody and support, and ask both parties to consider what will most help their child. Often the child specialist talks to the child and brings their emotional needs to the parents’ attention.
If the parents struggle to agree on a key issue like custody, the child specialist will advocate for the child’s needs and may offer alternative solutions, such as a different breakdown of timesharing.
While a child specialist will add to the cost of your divorce, they will also help to make these changes easier on your child.
What is Collaborative Law?
This term is often used in conjunction with discussions of collaborative divorce. Collaborative law is an umbrella term that refers to alternative dispute resolution used often in divorce, or other family law matters (like custody cases where the parties aren’t married).
It focuses on empowering people to work out their disputes after agreeing to specific negotiation terms beforehand.
Is a Collaborative Divorce Cheaper Than a Litigated One?
Sometimes, but not always. This is also dependent on your particular situation.
If the collaborative effort doesn’t work out, and you and your spouse need to restart the process with new lawyers, you may spend more money than if you had chosen a litigated divorce in the first place.
However, in some cases where the divorce is completed collaboratively, the parties may save money.
In many litigated divorces, the judge sends the couple to mediation to work things out independently, similar to a collaborative divorce, albeit supervised by a court-appointed mediator.
If your litigated divorce is settled this way, the costs may not be much higher than those of a collaborative divorce.
Are There Other Benefits to Collaborative Divorce?
In some situations, a collaborative divorce is faster because the parties don’t need to wait for multiple hearings in the Albuquerque family court.
You and your spouse can set your own schedule for when you want to agree on various issues, when you want to go over financial documents, when you want to finalize an agreement, etc.
However, sometimes the collaborative process takes longer than expected if an unforeseen issue arises.
For instance, if you thought that you and your spouse were generally on the same page about everything, then you find out they refuse to compromise on one key issue that you also feel strongly about, things may move much slower.
Another benefit is that collaboration allows the spouses to take charge of their lives instead of letting a judge decide on personal issues like where the children will live or who will keep specific assets.
Additionally, you may prefer to keep your divorce private rather than argue the issues in court. Some spouses also believe avoiding a litigated divorce may reduce stress for their children.
Contact a Collaborative Divorce Attorney in Downtown Albuquerque Today
The New Mexico Financial and Family Law Firm is here to help with your collaborative divorce or other family law matters. If you need assistance with your divorce, please contact us at (505) 503-1637 to discuss your options.