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What Is A Civil Divorce



A civil divorce is also known as a collaborative divorce, meaning a divorce that adheres to collaborative laws. This type of divorce seeks to avoid the knock-down drag-out battles that wage for years, cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, and leave all parties spent, scarred and emotionally (as well as financially) bankrupt when they emerge from divorce court.

In a civil or collaborative divorce, both sides retain counsel, who adopt a collaborative style and work together to try to resolve issues, or at least minimize the amount and extent of the dispute. Counsels and their clients seek to build consensus and make as many decisions as possible outside of court. Information and documents are shared voluntarily, and gamesmanship is not tolerated. Key issues in the divorce, such as spousal support, child custody and child support are often agreed upon, and there is no need for court intervention on those topics.

How Do You Achieve a Civil (or Collaborative) Divorce?

Both spouses and their counsel typically enter into an agreement to start the collaborative divorce process. The agreement generally sets forth some basic, foundational premises:

  • All parties will do their best to come to agreements on issues in the divorce;
  • All parties will do their best to avoid having to go to divorce court (or at least narrow the matters that must be heard);
  • Everyone will share information and documents;
  • All parties will conduct themselves in an ethical manner and without gamesmanship; and
  • Everyone will come to agreement on any experts that must be hired in order to complete the divorce process and finalize same.

Once the agreement has been signed by all parties, it is up to the spouses to tackle their property, finances and assets. The process begins with identification. The couple's debt must also be identified. The assets and debt will need to be split between the parties in some ratio. It may be necessary to use supporting documents to substantiate some figures at this stage. Often, this is one of the most difficult phases of the proceedings because of the emotionally-charged trigger of money.

When Is Civil Divorce Finalized

Both spouses and their counsel conduct joint sessions, or group meetings, when they are working through the issues in the divorce process. These meetings serve the purpose of helping the parties to work through the issues and to come to resolution more promptly. Once agreement on all key issues has been reached, counsel can prepare the necessary legal documents. The parties review the final versions of the documents, sign them and tender them to the court for final approval. Once court approval is obtained, the civil divorce is then finalized.

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