The simple answer to this question is “Probably.” In a collaborative divorce, the parties and their attorneys commit to full disclosure of information that is relevant to the parties in their decision-making. The issues up for discussion may include divorce (and what is causing it), support of a spouse and/or children, distribution of marital assets and liabilities, co-parenting plans and anything else that spouses need to decide.
The collaborative process involves spouses interacting directly to reach a negotiated settlement through a series of four-party conferences. The parties and their attorneys agree that if they are unable to resolve their issues through negotiation, the attorneys involved in the collaborative process will not participate in any future court actions.
Everyone commits to good faith negotiation in a respectful and constructive manner. If there is a lack of honesty throughout this process, it probably will not work as intended. The outcome of the collaborative process will only be as good as the input, so false or misleading information will most likely result in a breakdown of the process or an unsatisfactory result.
Occasionally, a party believes that they can hide financial information in the collaborative process, simply by not volunteering it. This also happens in litigation. In the collaborative process, as in litigation, the experience of the parties, the attorneys and the other professionals involved often leads to someone picking up on clues to the withheld information. At that point, the attempt to hide information backfires on the party because they’ve lost the trust of the other participants and the collaborative process will most likely end.
In the collaborative process, the attorneys are each only representing their client, but in order to do so, they interact with both parties and work together with the goal of reaching a negotiated agreement. Even with this team approach, each individual can feel confident that his or her attorney represents only him or her. Individuals can rely on their attorneys for advice and guidance with the assurance that the attorneys are also working toward the parties’ single goal – a negotiated resolution. Honesty and full disclosure are necessary to accomplish that goal.
This approach is not for everyone, but it is a great option for many couples. If the parties are not willing to discuss different options, are hoping to hide information or want to threaten the opposing party, this is probably not the right option. The parties need to be able to be in the same room together without wildly inappropriate behavior. Working together to discuss what works best for all participants can be a struggle if one or both parties is not willing to work to find the best solution for all parties involved, not just their own personal desires.
If you live or work in the central Pennsylvania area, including Carlisle, Harrisburg, Hershey and surrounding communities and would like to discuss collaborative divorce or any other family law or estate planning or administration issue, please contact our office for a free telephone consultation.