There are other alternatives – what is collaborative divorce? by Philippa Levitt (attorney, mediator, divorce coach)

Does the thought of going through a divorce fill you with a thousand stress- inducing questions?

Will it take forever? What will the impact be on the children?  Will they cope?  Will I cope?  How much will it cost?  Can I afford it?  Will my spouse react negatively and make it impossible to do this amicably?  Where do I find a suitable attorney?  Where do I start?!!

We have all heard the horror stories about aggressive lawyers, protracted court proceedings, bitter fights, actions and reactions that draw the worst out in each other, and the unimaginable expenses, all this making you wonder whether you would have the strength to face the battle!

Believe it or not, many lawyers feel the same way about handling a contested divorce and the acrimonious, drawn-out and expensive process that follows.

South Africans now have a new way to process their divorce, collaboratively.

Born in the 1990s in the United States, this process has since spread to over twenty-three countries worldwide and is actively practiced in countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

This collaborative process stresses co-operation over confrontation and resolution over revenge.  Just like in litigation, each party has their own attorney to represent them and look after their interests in accordance with the law BUT there is one major difference: both lawyers and both clients sign a Participation Agreement which states that from the outset they agree NOT to go to Court but to work in a collaborative way to resolve their divorce issues.  The parties and their lawyers agree that from the outset they will work in good faith towards negotiating a settlement.  They agree, subject to need and affordability, to bring other professionals (mental health and financial) onto the team to assist the parties to minimize the conflict and resolve the disputes in the best interests of the family.

Collaborative Divorce is a divorce with dignity. It requires both parties to agree to the process.  If the parties find that they cannot collaborate, then litigation remains an option.  If the parties do succeed in their collaboration, then the negotiated settlement is made an Order of Court on an unopposed basis.  The collaborative process is both supportive, speedier and more cost effective than a normal litigious divorce.

If you would like to find out more about this exciting new process, please visit our website at www.collabnet.co.za for more information.

Philippa Levitt is a founding member of The Collaborative Network and is a collaboratively trained attorney and a divorce coach. She also runs the divorce recovery workshop SURVIVE AND THRIVE with Stacey Lewis. Contact her on 074 0431 074.

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