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Older married couple discussing the possibility of a collaborative divorce in their home. Making the decision to get a divorce is usually a difficult one, but in many cases, couples simply can’t resolve their differences any other way. If you and your spouse have concluded that ending your marriage is a necessary step, you may want to do it in the least contentious way possible. Some people tell us they’re tired of arguing and want a peaceful resolution. Others want to minimize stress for their children or avoid airing their marital issues in court.

If any of these situations sound familiar, you might wonder if a collaborative divorce is right for you. In this article, we’ll explain how collaborative divorce works, what steps you’ll need to take if you want to proceed, and how your attorney will assist you with the process.

Why Do I Need a Downtown Albuquerque Collaborative Divorce Attorney?

There are several reasons an Albuquerque collaborative divorce lawyer is essential to this type of divorce:

  • First, your divorce attorney will talk with you about your situation in a confidential consultation. They will answer all your questions about collaborative divorce, ask you about the current circumstances of your marriage, and help you figure out if collaborative divorce is right for you.
  • While collaborative divorce is a good option for many people, it isn’t suitable for every marriage. If your attorney foresees any potential difficulties, they will let you know. They can also explain alternatives if it isn’t right for you.
  • Finally, if you do proceed with a collaborative divorce, you need an advocate. Both you and your spouse will hire a collaborative divorce lawyer to represent and protect your interests.

How Does a Downtown Albuquerque Collaborative Divorce Work?

Collaboration allows the divorcing couple more control over what happens than a litigated divorce. Both parties will meet with their respective attorneys and sign a “no court” document pledging to do their best to negotiate a settlement on their own. They will also agree to focus on finding the best solutions for the whole family, including any minor children. Any prior, legally binding agreements – such as a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement – will be honored unless both parties agree to discard or change them.

Some people ask what happens if things don’t go as well as they’d hoped, negotiations break down, and they can’t work things out. Will they be unable to get a litigated divorce?

No. You and your spouse can still change your minds and seek a litigated divorce, even after signing the “no court” agreement. However, if you do this, you’ll both have to fire your attorneys and hire new counsel, then begin the process again through the court system. For most couples, this costs both parties time and money, so they have the incentive to try to complete the collaborative process instead.

After the agreement is signed, you and your spouse will make a list of issues that need to be decided in the divorce, what documents you may need, and what specialists you will hire to assist you.

In Addition to Your Downtown Albuquerque Collaborative Divorce Lawyer, Will You Need Other Specialists?

In addition to your attorneys, you and your spouse may need the help of other professionals with some aspects of negotiations. Unlike your lawyers, these specialists are neutral third parties who should not take sides or work in favor of either spouse. Instead, they should answer questions and provide information and assistance to both spouses. Their goal should be to give you the help needed to make decisions that everyone can live with.

There are three categories of specialists who might be helpful to your collaborative divorce:

A Divorce Coach or Counselor

This person will help you and your spouse learn to communicate effectively so you can get through the negotiation process with a minimum of conflict. If a discussion veers off-course or becomes too intense, they will make suggestions to help you stay on topic and remain civil. Your divorce coach will help you manage your emotions and develop skills to make future interactions with your spouse more peaceful.

A Child Specialist

An expert in child welfare and mental health will usually fill this role. Their job is to focus on your children’s best interests and help prevent an intense disagreement over custody. Fortunately, most people who enter into a collaborative divorce also want what’s best for their kids and hope to reach a fair agreement where both parents remain in the children’s lives. However, sometimes couples start out with good intentions, but communications break down, and they have a difficult time reaching an agreement.

Your child specialist will step in to remind you both of your child’s needs and emotional concerns. They may draw attention to any difficulties the child currently has, and suggest options that would make things easier for the child. Sometimes they recommend family counseling to help everyone communicate better in the future. If you’re having trouble agreeing about where the child should live or how physical custody should be divided, the child specialist might remind you to consider where the child goes to school, what their extracurricular activities are, what a shared custody schedule might look like, and how moving or changing schools might affect them.

The child specialist also helps both parties put together a parenting plan, a document that lays out how future parenting decisions will be made. This includes decisions about:

  • Where the child lives
  • How much visitation the non-custodial parent will have
  • Where the youth will go to school
  • Who will pay for what expenses (school, health insurance, extracurricular activities)
  • Who the child will spend holidays and vacations with
  • How future parenting decisions will be made (when does one parent consult another about a decision, etc.)

A Financial Professional

Aside from child custody, sorting out finances can be one of the most complex parts of a divorce, even if you and your spouse are generally on the same page. A financial agreement requires a full accounting of your current finances, including all assets and debts, and your financial specialist will ensure you’ve collected and shared all related financial documents and records.

It’s very easy to overlook important items, and this can lead to conflict later on if one spouse believes the other is deliberately hiding something. In a litigated divorce, both parties are required to open up their finances to each other and the court so the judge can make an informed decision about how assets and debts should be divided. With collaborative divorce, you are expected to do the same thing with regard to your spouse – both of you should share all important financial documents. You won’t have to involve the court, so you will maintain your privacy, but you’ll need to be completely honest and forthcoming. Because you’re working out an agreement through mediation, you’ll both be on the honor system.

As mentioned above, honest mistakes happen – sometimes, people genuinely forget about a savings account they haven’t used in years or an income source that isn’t their primary livelihood. For this reason, your financial expert will go over any and all possible assets and debts that you might have to help jog your memories. If, after reviewing all the documents you and your spouse provide, the financial professional notices something isn’t “adding up,” they will try to figure out why while avoiding conflict. They might ask you both to consider if you’ve forgotten anything, if you can recall the reason behind a particular transaction, if there might be any documents you looked for but couldn’t find, etc. Often these methods can help you arrive at a complete financial picture.

Once all your financial cards are on the table, you and your spouse should discuss how you want to divide assets and liabilities (debts). Remember that in a collaborative divorce, the goal should be an outcome that works in everyone’s best interest rather than one party gaining an unfair advantage.

Your financial expert won’t tell you what to do, but they can explain how you might divide certain funds or resources, and answer questions. Frequently people want to know if they will both lose money by liquidating assets or choosing to keep them, if there will be tax consequences in the future for various decisions, how a choice may affect their children, etc. A financial expert can be very helpful in giving you the information and tools you need to come to an agreement.

By the time this process is complete, you should have decided how to dispense with all significant assets, who will be responsible for all debts, who, if anyone, will pay alimony and/or child support, and how much.

Does a Financial Expert Prevent My Spouse from Hiding Assets in the Divorce?

Your financial specialist will certainly explore any discrepancies, but it’s still possible one party could hide assets in a way the expert doesn’t notice. If you have serious concerns that your partner wouldn’t approach your financial discussions honestly, you may want to rethink a collaborative divorce.

If you go through with the collaborative process, the divorce agreement is finalized, and you later learn that your spouse concealed significant assets, you should speak with your attorney immediately. In some cases, we may be able to petition the court to reopen the divorce agreement and reallocate some funds.

Are There Other Situations Where a Collaborative Divorce May Not Be the Best Option?

Yes. Collaboration requires both parties to strongly desire to work together for the common good. Both spouses must be committed to transparency and willing to work on their communication and interpersonal skills. Sometimes there is simply too high a degree of conflict for a collaborative effort to work.

Here are some examples of situations where a collaborative divorce may not be the best choice:

  • If there is any history of domestic violence or abuse (including emotional or verbal abuse).
  • If you can’t communicate at all – for example, if one partner refuses to speak with the other or even the simplest conversation devolves into an argument.
  • If you both feel strongly that you can’t compromise on one or more issues – for instance, if your partner is determined to have sole custody of your child and won’t consider any compromise for shared parenting time, and you absolutely will not agree to that.
  • If both partners can’t agree on collaboration or mediation.
  • If you don’t trust your partner to be honest or work for your mutual benefit.

If you’re unsure about the process or want to know more, we recommend making an appointment with an Albuquerque divorce lawyer who can answer your questions and explain the options for your divorce.

How Will a Downtown Albuquerque Collaborative Divorce Attorney Help with the Divorce Process?

If collaboration is the right choice for you, a collaborative divorce attorney will serve many functions. They will have a frank discussion about what you hope to achieve in the divorce proceedings, and they will work hard to help you obtain as many of these items as possible. Along with other specialists, they will do their best to keep discussions with your spouse and their attorney productive and calm.

The collaborative divorce process itself has many benefits in the right circumstances:

  • Most couples save time through collaboration because it is not necessary to wait for multiple court dates – but the number of decisions you have to make will also affect how long the divorce process lasts. If you have children and a high amount of assets, your divorce will probably take longer than if you have few assets and no children.
  • Depending on the situation, you may save some money versus a litigated divorce. However, if the collaborative process doesn’t work out, you’ll have to start fresh with a new attorney and begin negotiations over again. For many people, this is more costly in terms of both time and money. The cost of specialists should also be taken into consideration.
  • You can keep your divorce private instead of worrying about sharing your relationship issues in court. While it’s true that many litigated divorces are also settled out of court, there remains the possibility that you may need to go before a judge if negotiations break down in a litigated case.
  • In a collaborative divorce, every effort is made to spare your children from upsetting custody battles. You’ll work together to protect your child’s emotional and mental health and create a post-divorce arrangement where both parents will retain a good relationship with the child.
  • A collaborative divorce often results in former spouses remaining on better terms with each other than in litigated divorces. This is particularly important if you have children and must continue communicating for their sake.

Contact a Collaborative Divorce Attorney in Downtown Albuquerque Today

If you have questions about divorce – collaborative or litigated – please contact New Mexico Financial and Family Law for a consultation. We’ll happily answer your questions and help you better understand your options moving forward.

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