Chryssikos Law Firm

Collaborative Divorce – Is It Right For You?

I used to think Collaborative Divorce was only for couples who get along fine, have a relatively simple set of issues, and was cost-prohibitive for most people.  I used to think that an equally good resolution could be reached through more traditional means with like-minded people and well-intentioned lawyers.  I used to think that it was a new age “holistic” approach that sounded great in articles, but couldn’t work with real people going through real problems.

So how do I feel about it now?  Before answering that, let’s discuss the Collaborative Divorce process and how it compares to what we all view as a more “traditional” divorce case.  Whether you’ve been through a divorce or not, we’re all pretty familiar with a traditional divorce.  You find an attorney you feel is qualified and someone you can work with.  That attorney files the divorce case for you and serves your spouse with divorce papers.  Your spouse hires a lawyer who you probably despise and the lawyers proceed to shuffle papers and emails back and forth for a couple of months.  You go to court a couple times and walk out wondering “what just happened?”.  You meet with your lawyer to discuss a “fair settlement” and maybe attend mediation.  Eventually, after 8 or 9 months and with a little luck, you reach an agreement and sign a Judgment of Divorce.

That’s a best-case scenario for most couples who’ve been married for any length of time with a typical marital estate and children.  It gets the job done and it’s been the traditional divorce model for a very long time.  It’s accepted because most people, even many lawyers, think it’s the only way.

But Collaborative Divorce is changing that perception – slowly, but surely.  Collaborative Divorce is a process that typically begins without a divorce case being filed, at least initially.  Rather than viewing their divorce as an adversarial process, the parties and professionals working collaboratively have agreed to approach the divorce as team, with identified common goals always being the focus.  The parties and their professionals commit to this team approach and, even if they can agree on little else, that resolving their case in this fashion is preferred over potentially costly and prolonged litigation.

The team generally consists of at least 5-6 members, including both spouses, their lawyers, a mental health professional or “coach”, and a financial specialist.  All of the lawyers, mental health professionals and financial specialists will have received special training in the Collaborative Divorce process.  Team meetings will be scheduled, as well as meetings with the specialists, in order to work through the parties’ concerns and potential outcomes.  No one will be bullied by the other attorney and no one will be left out of the process.  The hope is that through this team or goal-oriented approach, the parties will achieve a settlement that both of them find accomplishes their goals.

In June of 2014, Michigan became the 10th State in the country to pass the Uniform Collaborative Law Act, though Collaborative Divorces had been occurring in this State for many years prior to the Act’s passage.  But the Act’s passage demonstrates that Collaborative Divorce is gaining acceptance and popularity because people are seeking a healthier, more dignified alternative to traditional divorce litigation.

So what do I think of Collaborative Divorce now?  It is utilized in a very small percentage of divorce cases, but should be used more.  It’s not for everyone, but it’s an under-utilized method that should be at least discussed and explored as an option much more frequently.  It’s not cheap, but when it’s effective, it can be much cheaper than a traditional contentious divorce case.

I recommend that anyone considering a divorce should at least take a moment to learn more about the Collaborative Divorce process, by visiting or or by calling us at (248) 290-0515.

10.0James W. Chryssikos