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State compels spouses to collaborate on property division, more

Many Pennsylvania spouses have heard the term "collaborative divorce," but are uncertain how that process actually plays out. Because collaboration is still outside of the norm in divorce law, many people immediately eschew it as a valid option. That is unfortunate, because there are a number of advantages to taking a collaborative approach to reaching a divorce settlement. One state has gone so far as to legislate divorce, and now requires couples to at least attempt to work out matters of child custody, property division and more on their own, outside of court.

Spouses who take a collaborative approach commit to working through the details of their divorce with a shared goal of avoiding litigation, and reaching fair decisions with which both sides can live. They usually retain their own individual attorneys, who act as advisors throughout the process and make suggestions to help keep negotiations on track. Working together may be a challenge at first, but the process can be beneficial for parents, who will have to transition into co-parenting roles as they complete their divorce.

Collaboration also has a sizable social benefit. Litigated divorces place a substantial burden on the court system, both in large cities and small towns across the nation. Dockets are often clogged with cases, and aging courthouses are not always well-equipped to keep up with the flow of litigants. Litigated divorces also require higher staffing levels. In many parts of the nation, couples have to wait for long periods of time before their case can even be scheduled for a hearing.

The state that recently passed the Collaborative Law Process Act hopes that by compelling couples to at least attempt collaboration, some of those pressures can be relieved. When collaboration is a success, everyone benefits. Spouses are able to move beyond their divorce in a shorter period of time and with less bitterness. Courts are relieved of some of the pressure that divorces place on the judicial system. Collaboration will not work for all Pennsylvania couples, but it is a great option for many, and is something that should be given fair consideration when weighing the options for working through matters of child custody, property division and beyond.

Source: legalscoops.com, "Will New Florida Law Usher in Kinder, Gentler Divorces?", Jacob Maslow, July 3, 2017

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