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What Is Collaborative Divorce?

Historically, the primary issues in divorce centered on division of property. Thus, traditional divorce processes in the United States developed out of the very adversarial, arm's length procedures of general contract law. Because many of the issues to be decided in a divorce today, such as child custody, do not adapt themselves to the adversarial process, some have advocated for a different approach to divorce. One of the emerging options to traditional divorce is a collaborative law approach.

Collaborative Divorce Glossary

  • Summons - every civil lawsuit begins with the filing of a summons, a document informing the opposing party that a case has been filed, and that they must respond, or answer, the petition within a certain number of days or the court may find them in default and award the filing party what they requested in the way of relief
  • Petition - a petition is the document that sets forth names of the parties to a dispute, the facts of the case and what relief the petitioner, or plaintiff, seeks as a remedy
  • Four-way - in collaborative divorce cases, most negotiation and decision-making is done in a series of meetings called four-ways because they typically include two parties and their attorneys
  • Mediation - mediation is a process where parties to a dispute meet with a neutral third party, known as a mediator, to see if a trained dispute facilitator can help them come to agreement on at least some of the issues in the dispute
  • Discovery - discovery is a formal process in civil cases in which parties inquire into the affairs of the other person, including finances and other relevant area; discovery can involve the use of a series of written questions called interrogatories and court-reported person-to-person inquiries called depositions
  • Stipulation - a stipulation is a signed agreement between the parties intended to be the basis of a court order; it can relate to all matters in the divorce, a final stipulation or to discrete issues on a temporary basis
  • Expert witness - an expert witness is a person with sufficient credentials to be considered an expert in court, hired by one or both parties to present their opinion on matters at issue in the case
  • Child specialist - a child specialist is a professional, often a mental health professional, who specializes in child-related issues
  • Financial specialist - a financial specialist is a professional who specializes in financial consulting
  • Divorce coach - a divorce coach is a professional, often a mental health professional, who has specific training in mentoring clients through the emotional aspects of divorce so that they may concentrate on legal aspects
  • Final document - in divorce, the final document signed by the judge is called either a Judgment of Divorce or Dissolution or Divorce Decree; it documents all agreed-upon issues and will be the document the parties must turn to for resolution of post-divorce disputes
  • Guardian ad litem (GAL) - a guardian ad litem is a court appointed representative for a minor child.

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