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Minnesota collaborative divorce and child custody disputes

Minnesota residents who are going through a divorce don't want to be married to their spouse anymore, but they will have to continue to deal with each other while they settle the divorce. And if they have children, their dealings with each other won't come to an end once they sign off on a child custody agreement. Exes who can have a constructive relationship, or who can at least be civil to each other, will find these ongoing interactions to be much easier than those exes who fly into a rage at the sight of each other. Unfortunately, the traditional model of divorce through litigation tends to exaggerate any tensions and differences between the two parties, turning them into bitter opponents.

In recent years, many in Minnesota have tried to avoid this adversarial system through collaborative methods of divorce. Many of them have found that, compared with litigation, collaborative divorce gives them more control over their results, reduces stress and keeps costs lower.

Collaborative divorce in Minnesota started in the 1990s. Under the system, each party has his or her own lawyer but, unlike litigation or even alternative dispute resolution systems such as arbitration and mediation, there is no third party to make a final decision. The parties must work together to decide property division, spousal support, child custody or other issues of the divorce. Typically, they then sign an agreement, which is signed off by a family court.

Because there's less time spent in court, costs can be much lower than in litigation. The collaborative nature of the process also tends to make the parties work toward a common goal, rather than trying to fight until they get what they want. This can be especially valuable in terms of child custody issues, when the child's best interests must be first and foremost in each parent's mind.

Collaborative divorce is not for everyone. There are some ex-couples who will just never be able to agree on anything. When one ex intimidates the other, it may be impossible to reach an agreement that is fair. And in a bitterly contested child custody dispute, it may be necessary to find a disinterested third party to make the final decision.

However, collaborative divorce can be a great choice for many Minnesotans, perhaps especially those with children. Parents will need to collaborate on their parenting plan, and they may find that they can collaborate on other aspects of the divorce as well.

Source: US News & World Report, "Why a Collaborative Divorce Makes Financial Sense," Geoff Williams, Aug. 19, 2013

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