Any one gone through collaborative divorce?

My wife and I are pretty much done so we’ve been getting lawyers and such. She said something about Collaborative divorce, but then tells me that it costs between 30-50K :eek:.

That just seems way too much, since that means that there is anywhere between 100-200 hours of work for the lawyers. She insists that it will not cost any less then that for a collaborative divorce based on talking to her lawyer. She also insists that it will only cost 3-5k to get divorced the traditional way, which I don’t believe as the last time I got divorced, without kids or any real property it cost that much, and that was 10 years ago.

Has any one gone through this process? It seems a bit easier since there is no court to go to, we can do it after work, and for the most part I think we can agree on the majority of things so there’s no need to go back and forth with our lawyers.

I’d also like to get an idea of the cost. I know that every divorce is different, but there has to be a range.

When I got divorced, I first made sure that it was not going to be contested. The ex and I agreed about splitting assets. I hired a cheap attorney for about $600 and he took care of all the paperwork, got the signatures, then went to a judge for dissolution. I never went to court, nor saw the attorney more than twice.

A collaborative divorce just sounds like an amicable divorce. I got an amicable divorce (with no kids or property to squabble over) in California for $250.

See we have two kids and property so it is a bit more involved then walking away. My last divorce only cost me court costs since I didn’t hire a lawyer. This time it’s a bit different.

It looks like a collaborative divorce in your jurisdiction is basically a mediation with the lawyer acting as mediator. One of the main benefits of trying to resolve things this way is the reduced cost. Your wife’s estimate is way off - there’s no way it should cost anywhere near what she is saying.


Thirty to fifty thousand dollars? That’s way too much for a collaborative divorce.

We have a couple of excellent collaborative divorce practitioners in our office, and even though their regular fees are quite high, I know that the cost of a collaborative divorce run by them would not approach those kinds of costs. If I had to guess, I’d ballpark costs at between $3K and $5K, or possibly $6K if things were complicated. But I don’t know for sure (I admit that I’ve gone through the process, but a colleague represented me at vastly reduced rates).

For those not in the know, a “collaborative divorce,” often referred to as “collaborative law,” or “collaborative family law” by practitioners; is a method that is not adversarial and doesn’t involve one side suing the other for divorce. It is indeed somewhat like a mediation, though there are some important differences. Wikipedia gives a good overview at this link.

Like I said, I’ve gone through the collaborative law process myself. Edward, I can return later to post some comments, if you like.

I got divorced for around $100. No lawyers. We just decided we were done, and we sat down one day and amicably made a spreadsheet that listed all our assets, and went through them and split them up pretty much 50/50.

Then we went down to the courthouse and filled out a form that said we were divorced. I think we had a nice lunch afterward.

He’s a nice guy. I had no real issues with him other than feeling he was more of a friend than a husband. He felt pretty much the same about me. It was one of the easiest break-ups of my life.

Makes no difference. Just make sure all the details are set out in the agreement regarding joint custody and division of assets. It’s not rocket surgery. I wouldn’t hire a lawyer until either you reach an impasse or have an agreement.


The only ones collaborating are the lawyers.

My amicable divorce was only $400, and there were minor children involved.

Who does she propose the $30-50k go to? Her?

I would like whatever information you can give me. I’d rather make this as painless and easy as possible, and I know going the normal way is difficult.

Well, let’s see what I can offer.

Generally speaking, collaborative law works when a couple (I’ll call them H and W) decides to divorce with as little acrimony as possible. Ideally, there will be no real disagreement, nor any hatred, nor any “I"m gonna make you sorry!” attitude. They have just decided to go their own ways.

Under “regular” circumstances, one party would have to sue the other for some reason; or the parties might have to have a separation period before they could get a no-fault divorce. (Details on these can differ between jurisdictions; if you elect to go this way, consult a lawyer to make sure you know the details for your jurisdiction.) But often, the process is adversarial, especially if a lawsuit drives it.

But under the collaborative law process, fault-finding and blame-seeking are not important. The couple agrees to work together, in a mediation/negotiation format. H and W each get a lawyer (HL and WL, respectively), and the four of them get started.

First, the parties all sign an agreement. This agreement is like a contract–it binds the parties to full disclosure or all assets and liabilities, for example. It also makes the parties aware that should talks break down, H and W still have the option to pursue a divorce the “regular” way, although they can no longer use HL and WL. The idea behind this is to provide an incentive to help all four participants to focus on negotiation, and not on acrimony.

Next, H and W get HL and WL familiar with their current situation. There may be talk of living arrangements at this time, of childcare arrangements, or of other immediate concerns. It may be necessary to work out an interim agreement to look after these things; more permanent arrangements can be made later.

The next step is to work out a way to divide the couple’s assets and to arrive at an agreement to divide the liabilities. Full disclosure by both H and W is required–it is easy enough to agree upon what the household bills and mortgage/rent are, but H and W will have to make each other, as well as HL and WL, aware of their bank account balances, credit card debt, pension amounts, investments, etc. H and W will speak about what assets and liabilities they each brought to the marriage, and where they are now. Roughly speaking, what each brought then will be subtracted from what both own now, and be divided. (Some limitations and exemptions may apply, depending on jurisdiction.)

Other concerns will be discussed in much the same way. Starting with full disclosure and allowing discussion and questions to occur, the parties agree on how to proceed on a number of concerns. Who gets the children? What about visiting rights? What about paying for childcare? College? And so on.

In the end, some solution to everything will present itself. The lawyers, who have taken careful notes throughout, will draft up a contract reflecting everything agreed to. If it is accurate, according to H and W, the parties sign it. They lawyers complete any other necessary paperwork (the actual divorce paperwork required by the court, title changes on properties, facilitating payments from one party to the other, etc.), and that’s that. The parties abide by the contract as they go their own way.

Some variations may occur, depending on the couple and its circumstances; but generally, this can all be done in about two or three meetings of an hour or two apiece. The lawyers will do some billable work behind the scenes when they are drafting documents or talking with each other or their respective clients; but it would not be enough to boost the bill to $30K.

I didn’t like what was happening (my wife announcing she was leaving), but if it was going to happen, I did like the collaborative law process. Everything possible was addressed, and in the end, we reached an agreement I can live with.

Thanks for the info spoons. I found a collaborative lawyer this afternoon and I think for me it’s the way to go.