Mediating Conflict,
Embracing Peace

Collaborative Divorce Can Be A Pathway To Resolution

Headshot of Ululani “Lani” Akiona

Litigation used to be the only method for obtaining a divorce. This is an adversarial process that can create unnecessary conflict and leave important decisions up to a judge instead of being decided by the divorcing parties.

Thankfully, Washington residents now have numerous alternative dispute resolution options, including collaborative divorce (also called “collaborative law”). If you’re looking for a more peaceful and cooperative way to get divorced, the team at Akiona Law, PLLC, can lead you through the collaborative divorce process. Firm founder and lead attorney, Ululani Akiona, can provide you with the tools, resources and guidance you need for a successful collaborative divorce outcome. We serve clients in Snohomish County, King County and the greater Everett and Seattle areas.

How Collaborative Divorce Differs From Mediation

Because they are both alternatives to traditional litigation, many people confuse collaborative divorce with mediation. They do share some similarities, but they also differ in some important ways.

As we discuss on our mediation page, mediation is the process by which two parties (usually a divorcing couple) try to work out the details of their case with the help of a neutral third party. The mediator cannot make decisions or give legal advice. Instead, their job is to facilitate negotiation between the parties. Each party can also consult with their own attorney.

If mediation ultimately proves unsuccessful, the case will then proceed to litigation, where each side presents its case and the judge issues rulings. At mediation, it can feel like you’re operating under the shadow of the court because if you can’t reach agreement, then you’re going to court.

Collaborative law also involves out-of-court negotiation between the two parties. Instead, of using a mediator, however, both parties negotiate directly with one another with the assistance of their respective attorneys. Additional professionals are also brought in to advise and help resolve differences, including therapists (such as a divorce coach or child specialist) and a financial specialist/planner (such as a certified divorce financial analyst).

The collaborative divorce process is also binding, meaning that couples agree (in writing) at the beginning of the process to reach a settlement without going to court. This incentivizes everyone to negotiate peacefully and in good faith.

Five Reasons To Skip Traditional Litigation And Try Collaborative Divorce

Compared to traditional litigation, collaborative divorce has many important benefits:

  • It is likely to cost less
  • It is likely to be resolved more quickly
  • The terms are private, meaning that none of the family’s “dirty laundry” will be aired publicly
  • The two parties have much more control over the outcome of the case and negotiate terms that truly work best for the whole family
  • It is less contentious and stressful than litigation, which is better for both the couple and their children

Finally, the collaborative law practice can be done completely virtually. This is not an option in a traditional divorce.

Will Collaborative Divorce Work For Me?

The collaborative method can work well for former couples in a variety of situations. Many people associate collaborative law with couples who still have amicable relationships. While it is true that amicability can make the collaboration process smoother, couples who experience conflicts can also benefit from collaborative divorce. For instance, we have successfully practiced collaborative divorce with spouses who:

  • Have amicable relationships
  • Have acrimonious relationships
  • Run family businesses
  • Struggle with substance abuse
  • Are diagnosed with a mental illness

With that said, collaborative divorce works best when each side is willing to sit down and cooperate – even compromise – on the issues in their divorce. Through the collaboration process, you, your ex and your attorneys get to reframe things and work toward a solution that works for the both of you.

Collaborative divorce also has a good chance of facilitating a final divorce arrangement if both you and your former spouse want to avoid mediation or litigation. While mediation can benefit many couples, if it does not work then your only option afterward is a trial. In a trial, you are at the mercy of a judge who does not know you and barely understands the inner workings of your relationship with your spouse. Litigation is also immensely stressful not only for you but also for your children, if you have them. Collaboration can shelter your kids from the trauma of a conflict-filled divorce trial.

Through collaborative law, you retain control over the outcome. You have the option of hiring outside experts such as child therapists, certified public accountants, divorce coaches and more. Plus, it is binding, so you do not have to worry about anything changing regarding your divorce arrangement. The outcome of a collaborative divorce agreement is also confidential. In a trial, the results are public and anyone can look them up.

Discuss Your Legal Needs With An Experienced Attorney

Collaborative divorce isn’t possible or appropriate in every case, but it might be right for you. If you’d like to better understand your legal options and learn how Akiona Law, PLLC, can help, contact our office in Everett, Washington, to schedule an initial consultation. We offer honest and individualized representation to help guide you through divorce. You can reach out online or call 425-740-2209.