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Collaboration during divorce may ease property division strife

When it comes to divorce, many Massachusetts residents think of it as a stressful, contentious and expensive prospect. We all have friends or family members who have gone through long and difficult divorce proceedings that ended with neither party truly happy with the outcome. However, there is another way to approach divorce that may eliminate many of the negative aspects of the process, and can result in a child custody or property division agreement that both parties can feel good about.

The concept, known as collaborative divorce, began in 1990 with a family law attorney who had grown weary of the battles that couples wage at the end of their marriage. He wondered what would happen if attorneys and clients worked together to find a mutually agreeable settlement, rather than simply preparing for an ugly courtroom battle. The movement caught on, and there are now an estimated 22,000 lawyers across the country that are trained in collaborative divorce.

The process aims to focus on the common goal of dissolving the marriage and allowing both spouses the ability to move on with their lives. Issues such as child custody and support, alimony and division of marital property are dealt with in a straightforward manner. In some cases, the parties and their attorneys meet together, which can make these negotiations much simpler and faster than a traditional approach, which requires a great deal of phone tag and relay of messages.

In addition to a faster dissolution of the marriage, cost is another factor that leads many Massachusetts couples to try a collaborative approach. There are significant savings that can be had by holding meetings with both spouses and their attorneys present, reducing the back-and-forth of negotiations involving custody or property division and avoiding a drawn-out courtroom proceeding. For anyone considering divorce, the best approach is to know all of your options. If you are working with a professional, ask if they have been trained in collaborative divorce, and whether such an approach is a good fit for your needs. While a collaborative approach will not work for every divorcing couple, it can make the process much less stressful and contentious for many.

Source: Spencer Daily Reporter, "A Collaborative Effort," Randy M. Cauthron, July 28, 2012

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