A lot of times, people aren’t sure whether their divorce is going to be contested or not contested. They want to or do believe, that if both parties want the divorce that means it’s not a contested divorce. Unfortunately, we have to educate them that just because both spouses really want to divorce, does not make it uncontested. Whether it is a contested or uncontested divorce depends on how difficult it will be to agree on major topics. When I have an initial consultation with a potential client, part of what I try to do is figure out where the real points of conflict, or potential conflicts, might be. That is the best way to know if it is really going to be contested or uncontested.
What Issues Can Make It a Contested Divorce?
A custody fight is a very different conflict from a fight over property division. In a divorce where the fight is over property division, it is fairly straightforward to do a cost-benefit analysis in determining how much a client wants to spend to fight over a particular asset. Most rational people will not spend $5,000 to gain $7,000. However, this type of analysis does not work in making a decision regarding how much to fight over custody or possession of your children. Clients need to understand what’s worth fighting over and what’s not, then factor in the emotional cost of that fight. What are they willing to put their kids through? This is all part of determining if the divorce is going to be contested or not contested.
Even when the spouses agree on some of the pretty major issues, there are still a lot of details that have to be addressed in the divorce decree. For example, where are the kids going to live or who is going to keep the house? Many times, these are details that most people, who have not contemplated divorce before, don’t even realize need to be addressed. There are so many issues that can potentially be contested. I spend a lot of time in that initial consultation helping the client understand what issues will need to be resolved and which, if any, of those issues are likely to create points of conflict.
Collaborative Divorce is a method of dealing with those issues without fighting it out in the courthouse.
When getting divorced, there are certain issues that must be addressed in your divorce decree. Handling the case collaboratively doesn’t mean you won’t have to address those issues. We just use a different process to address those issues. When you talk about the cost of a divorce, everybody wants to know “how much is this going to cost?” They are only talking in terms of dollars and cents. However, there is much more of an emotional cost to a non-collaborative divorce. There can be name calling, accusations, and other emotional issues that come with a non-collaborative divorce. In a Collaborative Divorce, while you still have to deal with those difficult issues, you can deal with them in private. It is kept within the confines of the collaborative process. In addition, we are able to take things into consideration in collaborative divorce that a judge might not be able to.
A true uncontested divorce is where both sides have agreed on how all of the issues will be addressed in the divorce decree. In most cases, an uncontested divorce is one that can only happen if there are no children, no property or retirement to divide or no debt to assign. Otherwise, there are issues that must be resolved. In my opinion, Collaborative Divorce is the best way to resolve those issues.