Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Divorce engages the powerful tool of negotiation (rather than litigation) to resolve a couple’s divorce settlement. This ground-breaking divorce option offers you and your spouse a private and dignified environment that reduces conflict and allow you both to gracefully transition from husband and wife, to father and mother.

In Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse each hire your own collaboratively-trained attorney and meet with your respective attorney to discuss your expectations, wants and needs. In addition, you and your spouse jointly hire a mental health professional and a financial planner to support and guide you through your divorce. To keep the negotiations a team-effort between all parties, you, your spouse, the attorneys and professionals sign a “no court” agreement in which we agree not to threaten each other with litigation.

Negotiations in Collaborative Divorce revolve around an interest-based method of problem solving. For example, if you state that you want to keep the house, your attorney will ask you why. If the reason you want the house is so that your children can remain in the same school district, then negotiations can move forward based on that information.

By using a collaborative process, the divorce negotiations remain outside of the court system, and you retain ultimate control over each decision. This strategy keeps emotional and financial costs down and allows you and your spouse to gracefully transition from husband and wife, to father and mother.

In Collaborative Divorce:

  • Each client hires a collaboratively trained attorney to guide and protect the client through the process.

  • The clients jointly hire a neutral mental health professional and neutral financial planner to provide added expertise.

  • The professionals and the clients work as a team to generate options for a mutually acceptable, comprehensive settlement.

  • Both clients agree to achieve a fair and comprehensive settlement without going to Court or threatening to go to Court.

  • Each client voluntarily discloses all information relevant to reaching a settlement.

  • Each client makes a good faith effort to look for resolutions that meet the needs of all members of the family.

  • Both parties agree to deal honestly with each other and to communicate in a respectful manner.

The Meeting Format:

The process typically starts when you and your spouse both decide to hire collaborative attorneys. Then, you each independently meet with the neutral mental health professional and the neutral financial professional. Once you have met with all of the professionals, the professionals (including your attorney and your spouse’s attorney) will meet to create a professional team.

The professional team lays the groundwork for your case and creates the first full meeting agenda. Typically you will meet with your attorney to prepare prior to the first full meeting. At the first full meeting we will review the participation agreement, discuss joint goals for the process, address immediate issues, and schedule the remaining meetings in the collaborative process. After the first full meeting, the neutral financial professional will give you and your spouse a list of financial homework to complete before the next full meeting.

If you have children, you and your spouse will meet for a series of “off-line” meetings with your neutral mental health professional to discuss the specifics of your parenting plan. You will meet with your attorney prior to the off-line meetings for legal advice and to discuss your parenting goals. Once you and your spouse have worked through general parenting agreements, we have a full meeting together with the attorneys to discuss the proposed parenting plan and to work through any sticky issues.

While you are working with our neutral mental health professional on parenting, you will also be working on a financial affidavit and gathering financial documents for our neutral financial professional. Typically, during our second full meeting we take a “walk around the estate” to review your particular financials and value your marital estate. After we value your marital estate, we will meet as a full team to brainstorm options for financial settlement. Once we have generated a few options, we will work with the neutral financial professional to reality test those options. Typically we will work through various scenarios before settling into a few options that both you and your spouse can both agree to.

Once we have settled all parenting and financial issues, the attorneys will draft your documents and send them to you for review. We have one final closing meeting to sign the documents and reflect on the process. The attorneys file your documents with the court. Neither party has to set foot in a courtroom or see a Judge. Typically the attorneys receive a signed divorce decree within a few days of filing.

Why Choose Cromwell Law?

Audrey Cromwell has represented 30+ collaborative clients within the Bozeman, Missoula, Billings, and Hi-Line areas. She is the most experienced collaborative attorney in Montana and a leader of the collaborative movement. Cromwell Law created both the Bozeman Collaborative Professionals practice group and the Missoula Collaborative Professionals practice group to further the practice of collaborative law in Montana. Audrey is extensively trained in collaborative practice, mediation, negotiation, and advanced collaborative practice.