On June 28 of last year, Governor Tom Wolf signed H.B. 1644 into law. Known as the Pennsylvania Collaborative Law Act, this law regulates and codifies a process known as collaborative divorce.
Collaborative divorce has always existed, and has always been an option. However, the law creates a uniform standard of practice for all parties involved. This means collaborative divorce should not be as risky as it once was. It minimizes the impact of power imbalances in the relationship and provides a path forward should negotiations fail.
Each party will need an attorney.
You and your spouse will each need your own attorneys. Collaborative divorce is not the same as mediation, wherein neither party is represented by an attorney, and instead retains a mediator.
At the beginning of the process you, your spouse, and all the attorneys will sign an agreement committing to the process. The agreement also outlines the goals of the process. It will also require each party to retain a new attorney at a new law firm if the process fails.
This is so all parties can trust that everyone involved is committed to this course of action.
You may need other professionals.
It’s not unusual to pull financial planners, accountants, or appraisers into the collaborative divorce process. Some of these professionals may even be trained in collaborative divorce themselves.
Of course, we suggest these same professionals to our clients regardless of the type of divorce they are pursuing. When you’ve got a lot of complex assets these professionals can help you evaluate the long-term impact of some decisions.
It’s not appropriate for all parties.
Collaborative divorce carries many benefits. It’s typically less expensive. It allows you and your ex to create solutions which are custom-tailored to your family’s needs. It tends to be better for the kids, and compliance becomes less of an issue because both parties were involved in the creation of the final agreement.
But if you’re divorcing an abuser, a narcissist, or someone who simply will not communicate in a civil and respectful manner, the traditional divorce route is still going to be the way to go. It’s also a bad idea if you suspect your ex may hide money or assets. If your attorney has to launch a discovery process because you suspect dishonesty, the collaboration has failed.
Many are heralding collaborative divorce as the wave of the future, but it is not a one size fits all solution.