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Divorce is known as the one kind of litigation that a large percentage of the population will experience during their lifetime. Because things like child custody, child support, property division and alimony are often at issue, divorce has a reputation for being an extremely unpleasant experience. Most of us here in Fort Myers know people whose divorces were painful or infuriating. Is there an alternative to litigation for divorcing couples?

For many couples, there is. If each spouse is willing to give it a go, a collaborative divorce may be a great alternative. Instead of the fight and win approach that is so common in litigation, a collaborative divorce uses a troubleshoot and problem-solve approach. The two spouses use negotiations to try to settle their divorce without a family court judge. A collaborative divorce can save time, money and happens in a less formal atmosphere. It allows the parties to negotiate an agreement that works for them, and it allows them to decide how to settle post-agreement disputes before they happen.

A collaborative divorce involves the free, open, informal and honest exchange of information. Each party hires their own lawyer and meets with the lawyer privately. The party discusses their wishes with the attorney and lets the attorney know what is open to negotiation and what is not. The parties and their attorneys then meet with each other to try to reach an agreement on the issues. If necessary, a neutral mediator may be brought on to facilitate agreement.

The goal of these negotiations is to forge an agreement that works for both parties. Often, this goal is achieved. If it is not, the parties may then proceed to litigation. The parties will each hire new attorneys for litigation. This is because collaborative law ethical requirements mandate that the parties sign “no court” agreements with their attorneys. A “no court” agreement directs both attorneys to withdraw from the case if it does continue to litigation.