How Can I Keep My North Carolina Divorce Out of Court?

For many individuals, a divorce is the first time in their life they have met with a lawyer or visited a courthouse. Understandably, this can be an intimidating prospect. When you’re already going through the process of ending your marriage, the idea of a legal battle on top of it can make an already stressful situation seem worse.

Although movies often portray divorces as expensive, messy, and time-consuming, the reality is that many couples are capable of divorcing without a great deal of stress and argument. If you and your spouse are willing to work together to end your marriage in a way that’s agreeable to both of you, a collaborative divorce might be a good option. 

A collaborative divorce is handled much in the same way as a typical divorce. The difference in a collaborative divorce is that you and your spouse work together, with the help of an experienced Raleigh divorce lawyer and sometimes other professionals, to reach an agreement without litigation.

What Is Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative divorce is a relatively new way of ending a marriage. It works on principles of dispute resolution rather than litigation. With traditional divorce, the divorce is set up like any other lawsuit, which means it’s an adversarial process. The spouses are the plaintiff and defendant, and their case can involve many different steps in court including hearings, the filing of motions, discovery, subpoenas, depositions, and sometimes even the hiring of expert witnesses. Depending on the complexity of the case, this is a process that can take many months.

With a collaborative divorce, both spouses agree they won’t actually start litigation while they’re trying to reach an agreement. Additionally, the lawyers for both sides agree they won’t represent their client in a typical divorce should the parties fail to come to an agreement during the collaborative divorce process. This agreement helps ensure that the lawyers are truly on board with helping their clients end their marriage without litigation.

Collaborative divorce isn’t a shortcut, and it’s not restricted to people with “simple” cases. You can enter into a collaborative divorce if you have significant assets, if one spouse owns a business, or if you have children and need to reach a child custody and visitation agreement.

You can also use collaborative divorce if one spouse will pay alimony to the other. The only prerequisite for a collaborative divorce is that both spouses must be willing to deal fairly and respectfully with each other.

Why Should I Choose a Collaborative Divorce?  

No one is required to enter into the collaborative divorce process. Instead, it’s a choice that people make when they want to work together to end their marriage without a long and costly court battle. 

In some traditional divorce cases, individuals may feel like they don’t really have a chance to speak with their spouse. Instead, communication is largely handled by their lawyers, who work with their clients to relay information to the other side of the case. This is a useful and necessary process for people who are going through a contentious divorce, but it’s not for everyone.

Many people also favor collaborative divorce because they feel like it helps them preserve a harmonious relationship with a spouse with whom they share children. Couples with children may bring in a team of professionals to help them during the collaborative divorce process. These professionals can include counselors and child psychologists who can help the spouses negotiate a child custody agreement that works for the whole family. 

What Happens During a Collaborative Divorce?

Whether you decide to pursue a collaborative divorce or a traditional divorce, you and your spouse will both need to hire different North Carolina divorce lawyers to represent you. You, your spouse and your lawyers will enter into a participation agreement stating both sides will make a full and complete disclosure of all financial assets and debts.

In the participation agreement, both sides will also agree to make an effort to create a divorce separation agreement without litigation. In the event the spouses can’t reach an agreement, the lawyers agree to withdraw their representation, and the spouses must then retain new divorce lawyers in North Carolina if they decide to pursue litigation.   

When the parties have drafted their separation agreement on all issues in the case, their lawyers take care of submitting it to the court and obtaining a final decree of divorce in North Carolina, which ends the marriage. 

What If My Spouse and I Can’t Agree?

If collaborative divorce doesn’t work for any reason, both parties are free to stop the collaborative divorce and file a regular divorce with the court. Collaborative divorce doesn’t lock you into any specific process. You may end it at any time if you wish to go through a regular divorce process. 

If you’re considering collaborative divorce, talk to a Raleigh divorce lawyer about your case. An experienced Raleigh family law attorney at Vitale Family Law can explain your options and help you decide if collaborative divorce is right for you. If you need the best divorce lawyer in Raleigh, NC get in touch with Attorney Lori Vitale by calling (919) 841-5680 or schedule a consultation.