Is Collaborative Divorce A Better Fit For Your Family?

Young Asian couple considering collaborative divorce.

Divorce can bring a wide range of emotions, including anger, resentment, and grief, but sometimes also relief and hope. The standard procedure for divorce in Missouri closely resembles a lawsuit, which can often make the negative emotions even worse. Conflict in divorce and other family law matters is not inevitable, though. It is possible to have an amicable divorce when both spouses commit to keeping things civil. Missouri law provides tools that can help. Collaborative divorce is a process that allows spouses to work out a settlement agreement for issues like property division, child custody, and child support in a supportive environment. Read on to learn more about the many potential advantages in collaborative divorce.

What Is Collaborative Divorce?

When the parties to a divorce rely on the court to resolve their dispute, the process is almost identical to any other lawsuit. One spouse files a petition for divorce and has the other spouse served with process. The other spouse may file a counterpetition for divorce. From there, they could try to negotiate a settlement, or they could have their lawyers fight it out in court. This procedure can easily lead to conflict where conflict might not be necessary, both during the divorce and afterward. Collaborative law offers another way that encourages an amicable divorce.

In collaborative law, the spouses work together with a team of professionals to find way to reach a settlement that not only resolves the issues presented by the divorce, but also prepares them for the future. Divorce is often not the end of a relationship, but rather its transformation into something new. This is especially true when the spouses have children. They will not be married anymore after the divorce, but they will continue to be co-parents. Collaborative law helps them transition from one type of relationship to the next.

Spouses involved in a collaborative divorce have a team of professionals to help them. Each spouse has their own attorney. Their team may also include a financial professional to assist them with property division and a mental health professional to guide them and their children through the process. The spouses may add other professionals as well, such as a parenting coach to help them create a plan for custody and visitation. Each of these professionals has received specialized training in collaborative divorce and dispute resolution.

Collaborative divorce has helped families throughout Missouri and all over the country. At least twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have enacted a version of the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA), which creates standardized procedures for use in divorce cases. A bill currently pending in the Missouri House of Representatives, HB 1948, would add the UCLA to the state’s Domestic Relations laws.

How Does the Collaborative Process Work?

A collaborative divorce begins when both spouses and their attorneys agree in writing that they will use collaborative law processes to resolve their disputes. Any other professionals on the collaborative team should sign the agreement as well. In a typical collaborative agreement, the spouses commit to share all relevant information with one another and to make a good faith effort to negotiate a settlement.

The process is somewhat similar to divorce mediation. The entire team holds meetings to discuss various matters, and smaller groups may meet separately. The financial professional can guide the spouses through important issues affecting property division, while the mental health professional facilitates communication between the spouses. The attorneys work to identify the important issues and assist their clients in finding common ground.

If the parties succeed in reaching a settlement, the lawyers can draft divorce paperwork and present it to the court with their clients. If the process does not lead to a friendly divorce, the spouses can try other methods of dispute resolution or go the traditional litigation route.

What Are the Advantages of Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative divorce offers numerous advantages over adversarial divorce for spouses who are willing to work together to find an amicable resolution.

Control Over the Process

In an adversarial divorce proceeding, state law and court rules often dictate what will happen. Each party has rights to request evidence and set hearings, and the other side must either comply or go to court to object. Scheduling hearings and other matters will depend on when the court has time on their docket. Collaborative law allows the parties to retain control over the process and set the pace. They decide when to hold meetings. Rescheduling or postponing a meeting does not require permission from a judge.

Time Savings

Litigation takes time. The parties may have to wait months for a court hearing because of busy court dockets. A divorce may drag on for a year or longer as the parties wait for available court dates. Collaborative law takes as long as the parties need. It only depends on the schedules of the spouses and their team members.

Cost Savings

The cost of litigation can be unpredictable. Responding to requests for evidence can take significant amounts of time. Preparing for hearings and trial can also be time-consuming. Collaborative law involves a series of meetings that occur at times agreed to by the parties. Costs can be much lower and much easier to anticipate.


Most hearings in divorce cases occur in open court. Most court filings are part of the public record. A substantial amount of information about one’s marriage and divorce will be out there for the whole world to see, should anyone care to look. In a collaborative divorce, everything happens behind closed doors. Nothing will end up in a court file except the final settlement agreement and divorce decree.

Mark A. Wortman is a Kansas City divorce attorney who has dedicated his entire practice to representing people in family law matters like divorces and child custody disputes. Please contact us online or at (816) 523-6100 today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case.

Categories: Divorce