A collaborative divorce is a process designed to help couples divorce with as little acrimony as possible. The two spouses must commit to being open and honest during the process and must commit to supporting the collaborative method. There are limited circumstances under which a collaborative divorce would not be suitable. Some of the more common unsuitable situations are as follows:
- History of abuse by either party
- Criminal acts by either party, i.e., tax evasion or embezzlement or evidence that one party has been hiding money/business profits from the other spouse
- Mental illness
1. History of Abuse
A person who has been the perpetrator of abuse, either toward the other spouse or to children, is generally unsuitable to participate in a collaborative divorce. Abuse leaves a psychological impact which would likely prevent a person from true collaboration. The principal of a collaborative divorce is that people will work together to come to an agreement that is fair and appropriate for all parties. Fear of retaliation could keep the couple from negotiating in good faith. Also, the physical distance needed to assure safety for the abused spouse may make settlement discussions difficult from a logistical standpoint.
2. Crimes of Fraud or Dishonesty
The cornerstone of a collaborative divorce is full disclosure of assets, income, and parenting styles. A person who has not been honest throughout the marriage, or who has been criminally charged with fraud or dishonesty is not a good candidate for collaborative divorce. If both spouses do not trust each other, the process would quickly fall apart and would result in wasted time and resources for everyone. A history of tax evasion or embezzlement which may lead to criminal convictions should alert a divorcing spouse to distance herself from, rather than negotiate with, the fraudulent spouse.
3. Mental Illness
In order for both spouses to negotiate fairly, it is important that they each fully understand the consequences of their actions through the collaborative process. While a mental health professional could help a spouse with mental illness through the collaborative process, it is the undiagnosed person with a mental illness who would be unsuitable for the collaborative process. A person who is bi-polar or narcissistic may be incapable of sincere negotiation and may only lengthen the divorce process. The spouse divorcing a person with undiagnosed mental illness would likely conserve money and resources by not taking the time to negotiate with someone incapable of negotiation. A judge’s order may be the only option to getting resolution.
Getting Legal Help
Whether to begin the collaborative divorce process is a decision best discussed with an experienced family law attorney. Collaborative divorce can be a great way to end a marriage in a civil way that does not further damage fragile family relationships, but only if both spouses are capable of the process. An attorney can help assess the chances of success before the spouses choose the collaborative route.