A Collaborative Divorce Guide for Charlotte, North Carolina

Robin M. Mermans, Esq
October 4, 2023

Divorce can be difficult, but putting your fate in the hands of a judge instead of enlisting the help of your own legal counsel, can make it even more challenging. Finances, real estate, children, and extended families all make managing divorce even more trying. And for many Charlotte, North Carolina couples, traditional divorce litigation is an experience wrought with emotional trauma. Luckily, there’s an alternative to the traditional divorce process:  Collaborative Divorce.

What is Collaborative Divorce?

The central idea of a collaborative settlement is to achieve the best result for both parties. Marital relationships are vastly complex and emotionally charged. This unique law procedure and settlement agreement takes that into consideration.

A highly cooperative law process, Collaborative Divorce is deeply respectful of just how personal and emotionally charged this experience can be for separating couples and their families. The approach gives you control to handle your divorce on your own terms, including child custody, child support, separation agreements, spousal support, property division, and so much more.

Collaborative Divorce also focuses on a more in-depth attorney-client relationship and features cooperation between both parties rather than competition and conflict. A family law attorney will help ensure your best interests are given proper attention and strive to find balance with your spouse’s needs, too. This form of negotiation is a kindler, gentler version of the traditional divorce process.

By understanding what the general law statutes in Charlotte entail, law procedures, and opportunities for alternative dispute resolution, you'll be better equipped to decide if the alternative dispute resolution path and working with a collaborative attorney may be the best way to dissolve your marriage.

In this article, we'll explore the details of divorce laws and Collaborative Divorce in North Carolina, including what the process entails and how it differs from traditional divorce. Our goal is to help you share the resources you need, so you’re well-informed and can productively discuss your options with your divorce coach, legal team, or law attorney.  

Collaborative law in Charlotte, North Carolina: What's the divorce process look like?

North Carolina family law allows couples to work together constructively, utilizing a team-based approach that weighs both parties' interests and carefully guides them through the court system.

This type of divorce dispute resolution focuses on positive relationships, aiming for no conflict, emotional strife, contested litigation, or combativeness in the divorce court—no matter the particular situation.

Spouses seeking a separation agreement are looking to quickly finalize the divorce terms without any involvement of the North Carolina Divorce Court. A Collaborative Divorce is unique because both parties are on the same side of the table throughout the process. Both spouses work closely to communicate issues (like child custody wishes and goals) and are committed to focusing their best efforts on finding a resolution rooted in mutual respect.

When it comes to divorce and family law, couples should work through disagreements informally rather than having a family lawyer or law judge settle their differences. During a Collaborative Divorce, you work with lawyers and other specialists. They will create the framework of a divorce settlement that reflects the best interests of everyone involved.

In a collaborative arrangement, couples meet with Collaborative Divorce and law team members and several legal and financial experts in a series of conferences to discuss those interests and differences. The end result achieved with the guidance of lawyers is a final law agreement that resolves marital issues without forcing the courts to intervene. This collaborative approach also allows you and your spouse to freely and mutually change the agreement circumstances in the future, if necessary.

What are the benefits?

There are a host of benefits to Collaborative Divorce. Although every situation is unique, many of the positive outcomes collaborative law proceedings promote include the following:

Avoiding contentious court battles

An alternative to traditional divorce litigation, Collaborative Divorce strives to keep couples and their children out of the courtroom. Instead, couples work through their marital and legal issues in a neutral environment, saving money on court costs and legal representation.

Focusing on realistic goals

To assist you in deciding which issues are and aren't worth fighting for, collaborative lawyers will help you understand what options are available. Working through this collaborative method also allows for several meetings, typically giving you and your partner more time to discuss legal issues compassionately and conscientiously.

Creating confidential meetings

The information discussed in Collaborative Divorce and law meetings is confidential, and the attorneys present are unable to represent either client in an attempt to pursue a court case. So, both parties are much more likely to be open, honest, and detailed about their financial information, parenting concerns, and other goals for divorce. Sensitive information is respectfully kept private and confidential.

Can one divorce attorney represent both my partner and myself?

Some Charlotte couples headed toward Collaborative Divorce might wonder whether they can hire one lawyer to handle both their divorce needs. Unfortunately, in North Carolina, one collaborative lawyer cannot represent both parties in a divorce case.

Divorce and legal separation include two separate people with very different law needs and personal interests. So, a divorce lawyer will have a conflict of interest in trying to represent both parties. Ultimately, it isn't ethical for one attorney to represent both parties in a divorce proceeding.

Do I have to go to divorce court?

Making the decision to divorce is tough and can be emotionally draining. Diverse personalities, situations, relationships, families, and differing law requirements make every person's divorce needs unique. Add to the mix of stress and complexities the physical court trial, which can be incredibly difficult.

A few welcome alternatives exist for couples who want to avoid court proceedings and seek a simple and amicable divorce procedure. Options that allow couples to get a divorce in North Carolina without going to court include:

A collaborative law divorce

Collaborative law attorneys work with you and your spouse to help you reach an agreement on the terms of your divorce without the involvement of a court. They may also involve additional specialists, such as mental health doctors and financial experts.

The divorce petition is then submitted after you and your spouse come to an agreement.

Divorce mediation

If you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement, an experienced mediator can guide you to a mutual understanding of your divorce terms.

Ideally, your mediator would be a lawyer. But in divorce mediation, other specialists can provide essential services (even if they're not lawyers).

Collaborative Divorce is generally considered the best alternative option, as it costs less money and requires less time. Collaborative Divorce lawyers are also highly focused on preventing and avoiding conflicts, which benefits you, your spouse, and your children.  

What does it involve?

In a Collaborative Divorce, all divorce-related conditions are negotiated between the parties without litigation. Couples will often combine mediation and bargaining to settle on the crucial aspects of divorce. This includes the division of marital property and debt distribution, child support, and spousal maintenance.

Let's take a look at the step-by-step process involved in a Collaborative Divorce:

Step 1: Setting up the initial meeting with your Charlotte, North Carolina-based Collaborative Divorce lawyer

Collaborative Divorce sessions are often referred to as "four-way meetings" because they are between you, your ex-partner, and your respective lawyers. The process begins with each party meeting separately with their respective lawyers to discuss wants, needs, and expectations. You'll also discuss what you specifically need to do or understand as you prepare for the first four-way meeting.

Step 2: Adding other professionals to your team

You can include other specialists in your team. These experts may advise on emotional support, child custody, and financial situations and can be accountants, family consultants, child specialists, or independent financial advisers. Your experts can be added to your team at any time throughout the collaborative law proceeding. These essential collaborative team members will communicate with each other to devise a plan for you and your spouse.

Step 3: Mapping out a plan for how your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer will communicate

Lawyers from both sides will speak over the phone or in face-to-face sessions to conduct preliminary planning for your first four-way meeting. Your lawyers will attend this session readied with notes collected from your initial conversations and will work collectively to set an agenda and framework for future meetings.

Step 4: Participating in the first four-way meeting

Your Collaborative Divorce lawyers will ensure you and your partner understand the process and expectations during your initial four-party meeting. This important session will set the tone for all other meetings.

You'll both review and sign a contract form that pledges your goals in reaching an agreement without going to court. Also, this agreement forbids your lawyer from representing you in court if the collaborative process breaks down. You will then seal the document outlining these good-faith agreements, which will be carefully held throughout the proceedings.

During this session, you and your partner will also discuss why you’ve decided to use the collaborative law process and arrange the agenda for the following meetings. (The schedule will vary depending on your situation.) You may also discuss how your children handle the situation, how to share financial information, etc.

Step 5: Preparing for subsequent meetings

In additional meetings, your attorneys will work with you to discuss and best represent your individual and collective interests. Often, the lawyers give their advice while you, your partner, and their lawyer are all together. The agreement is typically reached quickly if the recommendations are fair and agreeable to both parties. But, if the advice differs, it may take your lawyers more time to reach the final settlement.

Step 6: Finalizing the process

In the final meeting, you’ll sign documents outlining proposed agreements. Then, your lawyers will assist you with any further requirements needed to finalize the process.

How does Collaborative Divorce differ from family law and traditional divorce?

Collaborative Divorce and traditional divorce processes are considerably different. Only couples open to working directly with one another to settle things mutually should consider a Collaborative Divorce. This is an excellent option to consider if you and your partner are amicable. People working through a Collaborative Divorce find the process is faster and better for the family as there will be no conflicts.

Divorce mediation and Collaborative Divorce are frequently misunderstood. Collaborative Divorce doesn’t include a third party to help the parties reach an agreement, even though both options allow couples to work together to resolve their divorce. This approach is similar to conventional divorce in that the attorneys provide legal practice and guidance. Other experts may need to be consulted to help the parties come to an understanding. These experts, like financial advisors or child psychologists, are knowledgeable about marital concerns and can provide additional support and guidance.

It's common for spouses in a traditional divorce to argue and fight over matters. The sharing of information is permitted in a Collaborative Divorce as long as both parties agree to cooperate in reaching a settlement. Additionally, it is typically less expensive than a standard judicial divorce.

Whether the Collaborative Divorce is right for you and your spouse depends on each of your goals, your ability to work together—and most importantly, your willingness to negotiate. For example, if you and your partner have experienced a history of domestic violence or poor communication, Collaborative Divorce is likely not the best divorce option for you.

However, if you and your spouse are willing to set aside your differences and discuss issues with your lawyers rationally, this may be a great option for your family. You'll ultimately stress less and save time and money through a Collaborative Divorce process.

Ready for the next step? Contact the professionals at ROAD to RESOLUTION

If you and your spouse live in Charlotte, NC, and want to achieve a successful separation, hiring a Collaborative Divorce attorney is your answer.

Our experienced attorneys and the ROAD to RESOLUTION team of divorce professionals are just a phone call away. Let us help you understand your legal rights and work with you toward achieving the best outcome. We're ready to guide you through the Collaborative Divorce process and various settlement agreements. Give us a call to learn more about your options, find relevant information for making important decisions about your family, and secure legal services to help address your personal needs.

Robin M. Mermans, Esq
Founder and Principal Attorney

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