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Collaborative Divorce: Not Just for the Super-Wealthy

I’ve written briefly before about collaborative divorce on this blog, but one misconception about this relatively new method of ending a marriage continues to pop up from time to time. That misconception is that collaborative divorce is just for the wealthy and those with significant net worth values.

Two studies conducted by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, however, set the record straight.

The IACP conducted a four-year study (link: PDF of summary results) in which practitioners responded to a series of questions aimed at crafting a more detailed picture of who, exactly, uses collaborative divorce services instead of the traditional divorce litigation route.

The IACP also conducted a separate client survey, this one aimed at the actual participants in collaborative law processes. (Here’s the link to the PDF of those results.)

What the IACP found is that a significant percentage of individuals who choose the collaborative process earn less than $100,000 per year. From the IACP’s Client Experience Survey summary:

Fifty-four percent (54%) of respondents had estates valued at $500,000 or more …  [n]ineteen percent (19%) had estates valued at less than $200,000.

Clearly, then, collaborative divorce is not just for the super-wealthy.

Clients often choose the collaborative process for many reasons. For example, the collaborative process is perceived to be much less likely to turn highly adversarial and contentious.

But it is also true that clients often fear the litigation process may become protracted and eat up financial assets that could be better allocated to taking care of each partner’s fresh start. As Florida attorney Adam Cordover wrote recently:

Though it is true that the up front fees in collaborative family law may be more than the traditional trial divorce, the specialization of the collaborative attorneys, facilitator, and financial professional allow for tremendous cost (not to mention time and emotional) savings over the course of the divorce.

Collaborative divorce isn’t the right choice for every couple, of course. But it’s certainly worth exploring as an option. Fear of the cost should not keep you from asking your attorney about it and exploring the possibility.