Academy of Collaborative Divorce Professionals | Frequently Asked Questions about Collaborative Divorce
Learn more about collaborative divorce and why it might be right for you by reviewing these frequently asked questions about the collaborative divorce process and how various issues are dealt with.
Collaborative law, collaborative divorce, costs of collaborative divorce, children and divorce, collaborative divorce process, collaborative divorce in denver
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Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce

and the Collaborative Process

How long will my divorce take?

This is difficult because the answer is dependent upon the specific facts of your case.  In Colorado, the shortest amount of time, from filing a Petition for Dissolution to being granted a decree of dissolution of marriage, is 91 days. The court has no ability to grant a divorce any faster.  However, a divorce will only be granted if the parties have resolved all their issues as contained in a Settlement Agreement or, if they cannot settle everything, the court will hold a contested hearing and decide the contested issues.    Most divorces are settled by the parties.  Some cases take longer if the parties have difficulties reaching their agreements.  If a divorce case is litigated, it can take months and sometimes years to resolve.  In Collaborative Law we move efficiently at the parties’ pace to fairly resolve your case.

How much will my divorce cost?

The cost of a divorce is related to the complexity of the issues and the parties’ own abilities to work together through the issues.  Costs arise, for example, when assets need to be valued or parents need help figuring out a parenting plan that works best for their children.  Mediators, appraisers, financial experts and psychologists are each available to assist in an appropriate case. It is wise to try to resolve issues in the most cost-effective way, which means determining what information you need in order to find and to trust in your settlement.  Often struggles are emotionally based rather than merely financial. Investing in ways to minimize that conflict is often the most cost-effective thing you can do to resolve even the most complex issues.

Is collaboration easier?

The answer is yes, and no.  In collaboration, you don’t get sidetracked by issues of discovery or attributing get-even motives.  The litigation posturing and unnecessarily inflammatory behavior is generally avoided (and if it does happen, it is quickly and transparently discussed and rectified).  This is one huge advantage of collaboration

Divorce is a time of loss and grieving and sometimes, in order to move on, people must reconcile their feelings of hurt.  When everything in a case is done formally through attorneys, often the emotional issues in the case are ignored because they are legally irrelevant.   The irony of that is that these same issues are almost always the bedrock of the parties’ inability to find solutions.  Since they are ignored or augmented in traditional litigation, cases that should settle do not or do not settle easily.  In collaboration if hurt and anger creates an impasse in resolving a case, the issues causing the impasse are dealt with through coaching or facilitated dialogue.  Sometimes facing these issues is difficult and this can make certain aspects of collaboration challenging.

Do I have to pay all the attorney fees myself?

Often in traditional litigated divorce, one spouse has less access to money and as a result cannot afford representation or cannot afford the representation they want.  Money is often a bargaining chip as the downside spouse struggles financially.  In Colorado, the law allows for balancing, but this can sometimes be difficult and take months to achieve.  In collaboration, there is an agreement at the start of the process that both parties will be able to retain and pay for their attorneys equally.

What if my spouse is hiding money, income or assets?

While this is a fear that spouses face, in reality hiding money or assets doesn’t happen often.  But for cases where one spouse is taking a scorched earth policy, the law allows for you to take steps to discover and recover hidden assets.  These cases are not suitable for collaboration because collaboration requires   both parties to participate transparently and openly and honestly.

What makes a case unsuitable for collaboration?

Here are the several red flags:

  • When one spouse is unable to compromise. Sometimes, even when a party wants to be “nice” they just cannot make joint decisions.  These cases are unsuitable for collaboration.
  • When a spouse is unable to place the needs and wellbeing of the other spouse on the same level as their own.
  • When the level of distrust is too high for the spouse to feel safe making decisions that rely on the other spouse’s good faith. Spouses need to be able to trust that the financial disclosures and representations of the other side are transparent and reliable.  When a marriage is dissolving because of infidelity, trust is often compromised.  However, most spouses realize that the level of trust needed to reach a financial or parenting solution is separate and apart from the infidelity issues.  Many “cheating” spouses may lie about an affair but can still be trusted to give accurate financial disclosures and love their children while parenting well.
  • Cases involving physical abuse, mental health issues or substance addiction are difficult to do in collaboration and may require special agreements – such as arbitration – so that a spouse does not blow up a case when they don’t get their way or when they fall back into addictive behavior. It must be remembered that cases with physical abuse, personality disorders or addiction are extremely difficult in the litigation arena.
Our largest asset is a business―who will get it when we divorce?

Jointly run businesses are one of the stickiest problems in divorce because often what causes the divorce is exactly why the business is successful.  One party is cautious and financially conservative; the other has big ideas and sees possibilities for growth.  One person manages the people and the practicalities of the business; the other manages the customers and the outside face of the business.  Together these attributes make for a successful business. The tension in their differing tolerance for risk can lead to substantial issues within a divorce.  When a business has this dynamic, it can be disastrous giving the business to one party or the other – especially since each party typically sees the contributions of the other as being replaceable.

In most divorces, the business is valued and is given to one party.  In collaboration, although the end results may be similar, there is a panoply of other possibilities such as dividing the company responsibilities, dividing the company, or arranging buyout terms that each party can abide.

One of the biggest advantages of the collaboration process is flexibility.  For example, the law requires that a company be valued on the date of divorce.  However, if a lucrative contract is right around the corner, or a legislative initiative is about to radically change the industry, valuations can be unreliable.  Buyout provisions that take into consideration changing market forces are typical when you sell a company, but not necessarily in a litigated a divorce..  Collaboration allows the parties to adjust values and make compromises that share the risk.

How does separation or divorce happen for non-traditional or alternative families?

The law is starting to recognize non-traditional families, despite the fact that they have always been a part of our society.  Non-traditional families have faced legal impediments that generated conflict when one parent, as a result of biology, had a better claim to legal parent status.  Although that is changing rapidly, the lingering effects of an unfair legal system can generate conflict.

In collaboration, the parties decide to be fair with each other and the process is generally easier to navigate.

I heard Collaboration is unethical in Colorado?

That is NOT correct. Collaborative practice in Colorado is entirely ethical.

Is collaboration right for me?

Most people who practice divorce law will tell you that if they had to get divorced, they would opt for a collaborative process.  Having said that, it is up to you to determine which resolution method is best for you and your family. A Collaborative professional can help you weigh the pros and cons. We feel that the Collaborative process offers a win/win outcome for you and your spouse regarding your settlement and the opportunity to improve your communications both for this settlement negotiation and any future issues or co-parenting.

Does it matter if we have or haven’t filed our papers before talking to a Collaborative attorney?

Most Collaborative Law practitioners prefer to collaborate without being tied to court deadlines which require the parties to show up for status conferences and file certificates of disclosures.  The demands of an overworked court system to schedule cases can cause a conflict between collaborative negotiations and court requirements.  The resulting pressure increases the stress on all involved.  On the other hand, deadlines can be helpful!   If part of your divorce i settlement includes getting a new mortgage, having established maintenance can make that possible.  Whether or not you want to file is something you can discuss in your first meeting with your collaborative lawyer. If you decide your early filing was premature, that initial filing can be dismissed.  Collaborative negotiations have been successfully conducted even after starting the divorce with the court, but remember, your collaborative lawyers cannot represent you in court.  Generally collaborative practitioners prefer to conduct Collaborative negotiation before you file with the court.

My spouse says s/he doesn’t need a lawyer. Can we still have a Collaborative Divorce?

No. Collaborative Divorce specifically applies to cases in which each party is represented by a collaboratively trained attorney. The parties do not want the attorneys to make the case adversarial or use threats of going to Court to gain negotiating advantage. Professionals trained in Collaborative Law can help make your divorce less adversarial.

Having said that, there are many trained collaborative mediators who can approach mediation from a collaborative perspective and you can figure out in mediation whether or not you both need representation.  Often, if a case begins in mediation, the parties decide that it is better for them to both be represented at least at some point and certainly prior to signing any final settlement document.

How does collaborative divorce differ from mediation?

They can be very similar.

Collaborative Divorce is a team approach in which the spouses benefit from expert advice and lawyer representation in reaching comprehensive and lasting agreements. Mediation is a process in which spouses/parents meet with a neutral mediator to resolve issues through discussion and problem-solving. The Mediator is a neutral third party who helps facilitate the dialogue but does not make decisions for you and does not give you legal advice.

Because the Mediator does not represent either of you and does not give legal advice or interpret the law, you will decide whether or not to seek legal advice or representation from your own attorneys.  The Mediator may refer you to impartial outside experts in legal, financial, or other fields to address specific questions or issues that might arise.

We don’t communicate well. Can Collaborative Divorce work for us?

Yes!  A key support provided in the Collaborative process is helping spouses change how they communicate.  They learn effective communication strategies as a result of the collaborative process.  Because Collaborative Divorce allows the two of you to be in charge of your own process, as opposed to relying on the court to decide the outcome of your future, the Collaborative Divorce process is vital to helping you both speak to, and hear, each other.

Collaborative Divorce offers a unique team approach. Each professional is collaboratively trained and models productive, needs-based communication. The Collaborative Divorce Facilitator (CDF) is a vital part of the Collaborative team, who can teach you communication skills such as:

  • Learning to catch yourself before you say something that will hurt your cause. Collaboration offers specific divorce coaching that will help you get out of your own way.
  • Identifying your needs as opposed to the strategies for getting your needs met. Sometimes what you think you have to have isn’t really what you want.
  • Having the opportunity, if needed, to say the hard things that need to be said in order to move on. Collaboration can open up the possibility of deep healing.

The Collaborative Divorce process supports the most fragile and unworkable aspects of your relationship with your spouse in order to help you figure out your divorce in the least conflicted and least expensive way.  Many clients find that after a collaborative divorce, they have a better relationship with their former spouse than they thought they would.

Is Collaborative divorce cheaper?

The answer depends on what the alternative is.   A collaborative divorce is less expensive than a fully litigated divorce However, most divorces settle, so that doesn’t answer the question.  In collaborative processes, the attorneys utilize a facilitator or divorce coach, and often use a financial neutral.  If child issues are not readily resolved, then   a child specialist will help.  , The more conflict that is present that needs to be sorted out, and the more experts needed the more the process costs.   While a collaborative divorce may be less expensive than a litigated one, it is not inexpensive.  Having said that, most people who’ve litigated would tell you to collaborate.

One of the hidden costs of divorce – and this is particularly true if there are children – occurs if the initial settlement isn’t something that both parties really buy into. You can face expensive post-decree litigation when the parent who is unhappy later tries to change the parenting arrangements.  Similarly, if a spouse is unhappy with the amount of support they are paying or receiving.  Post-decree issues are rare in collaborative cases because collaboration involves teaching spouses a different way of resolving conflicts and it attempts to understand the reason behind the conflicts and resolve them – not just the legally relevant ones,.  In collaboration the parties get time to sort out what is really important to them.   The “settle on the courtroom steps” mentality/tactic where both parties are pressured to find a hasty resolution in order to avoid court, doesn’t happen in collaborative law.  It operates to minimize after-the-fact conflict and helps ensure that the parties don’t end up with buyer’s remorse.

The truth about divorce is that the primary conflicts are rarely legal ones.   Since traditional litigated divorces only deal with the legal issues and not the emotional ones, the process is more conflicted because if you cannot argue about how betrayed you feel, sometimes you argue about which holidays you should be awarded.

Will I receive maintenance (I.e., spousal support or alimony) during or after divorce?

Maintenance is a difficult issue at the best of times.  In collaboration, the issue becomes a question of what makes the most sense for both parties rather than being a formulaic division of income that can work great disadvantage to one spouse or the other.

Will an extramarital affair have an impact on my divorce?

In virtually all cases, the answer is yes although perhaps not in the way you might think.  Colorado is a no-fault divorce which means that courts are not allowed to penalize a spouse for behavior of which they do not approve.   Nevertheless, the pain and resentment of an affair often causes strife and the aggrieved spouse’s pain interferes with already difficult negotiations.   In collaboration, the elephant in the room is sometimes brought into focus so that the couple can address the past in a way that is productive and helps the parties move past the hurt within the negotiation.  It allows for hard feelings to be better resolved and set aside so that they do not impact the solution process of the divorce.

Is Collaborative Divorce appropriate for couples with children and couples without children?

Absolutely!  Parents may see additional advantages because they will continue to have a post-decree relationship. Collaboration is often a less damaging process for everyone than a litigated divorce.  For couples without children, the advantages of direct negotiation, open disclosures, and the opportunity to be heard in the negotiation are seen as creating a more principled and thorough resolution.

How is custody of children resolved?

In a litigated case, if parties cannot figure out parenting time, the court will do it and the results will usually be something that neither parent wants.    As both parents present facts and arguments that directly attack the other parent, the prospects for future cooperative parenting become strained.  In collaboration, the parents opt for a different way of resolving the issues that results in plans that both parents can live with.  Sometimes the parents employ a child specialist to help the parents learn what is important concerning their children, and where the parents can find compromise that protects their children’s interests and their parenting relationship with the children.

If I have joint custody, do I have to pay child support?

Child support is based on the gross incomes of the parties, the number of parenting overnights, and certain adjustments such as health insurance and the work/school related child care cost..   Colorado has a formula that, by and large, is followed in most cases, including collaborative ones.  In collaboration, there is more flexibility in determining support issues in ways that make the most sense for all parties. A Colorado state judicial child support calculator can be found at the State Judicial website: .

Will I have to pay for my child's college education?

Colorado law does not require parents now divorcing to pay college expenses. The obligation to pay regular monthly child support continues until age 19.  If parents agree, they can share college expenses but because the law does not require it, most parents do not agree.    In collaborative cases the parents can agree on cost sharing that fits their financial abilities and the goals of the family now and into the future.  A creative solution may meet everyone’s needs.