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Collaborative Divorce in 6 Steps: How it Works for Michigan Residents

Posted on in Divorce

Farmington Hills collaborative divorce attorney, collaborative divorce, collaborative family law, Uniform Collaborative Law Act, divorce settlementsDid you know that you can get a divorce in Michigan without going through adversarial court proceedings? 

In June 2014, Michigan became the tenth state in the U.S. to adopt the Uniform Collaborative Law Act, which defines basic standards for the practice of collaborative family law. This act paved the way for Michigan judges and attorneys to fully support and practice a collaborative approach to divorce settlements, including asset distribution, alimony and child support payments, and custody/parenting agreements.

The aim of collaborative law is to create outcomes that best serve the needs and values of all parties involved and to do so through a process that is cooperative rather than adversarial. Negotiation, compromise, and creative problem solving are the bywords of the collaborative divorce process.

How a Collaborative Divorce Works

There are six basic steps in a collaborative divorce.

1. Each party hires his or her own lawyer, who should be experienced in collaborative law and mediation.

2. Both parties and their attorneys sign a contract in which they commit to participate in a series of joint meetings in which they will discuss and develop solutions to divorce-related issues including alimony, distribution of assets, child support, and custody/parenting arrangements. They commit to treat one another respectfully, to openly and honestly disclose all financial and other information relevant to the issues, and to reach a final settlement agreement without court intervention. As part of this contract, all parties agree to maintain absolute confidentiality throughout the process, creating a safe environment for spouses to freely express their concerns. 

3. A team of supporting experts is selected. The team typically includes the following:

  • A divorce coach who helps the parties manage their emotions and constructively express their needs and concerns;
  • A financial neutral who organizes the data on the couple’s assets and cash flow and provides financial and tax advice; and
  • A child specialist who meets with the children to understand their specific needs and preferences and then helps to develop a child-centered parenting plan.

4. In a series of joint sessions, all parties—the divorcing spouses, their attorneys, and any supporting experts—work together to develop a comprehensive settlement agreement. Contrast this with an adversarial divorce proceeding in which each party speaks only to his or her own attorney, and the attorneys meet separately to fight for terms that favor their client over the other. 

There is typically an initial meeting with just the attorneys and spouses to address immediate concerns, such as who will pay which bills and how any children will be cared for until a final agreement is reached. In subsequent meetings, the lawyers lead the divorcing couple in structured discussions and problem-solving.

Each party is guided to explain his or her personal needs and values, to identify shared interests, and to engage in constructive problem solving, keeping in mind that the goal is to end the marriage without hurting each other and other family members in the process. One by one, each issue is put on the table and everyone focuses on ways to resolve it that will meet everyone’s needs as much as possible, rather than treating the “other side” as an adversary to be attacked. The need for both attorneys to have significant experience and expertise in collaborative law should be obvious.

5. A final settlement agreement is written and signed.

6. The attorneys prepare and file the court documents necessary to obtain the certificate of divorce. No court appearance by the divorcing couple is necessary. 

Collaborative Divorce Attorneys in Novi, Michigan

Whether you anticipate amicable or acrimonious divorce negotiations, a certified Farmington Hills collaborative divorce attorney can help ensure a final agreement that will help all parties move forward in a positive manner. The attorneys at Elkouri Heath, PLC are trained to facilitate amicable resolutions whenever possible, but are also fully prepared to litigate your matter in court when necessary. To schedule your consultation, call 248-344-9700.



Oakland County Bar Association State Bar of Michigan Collaborative Practice Institute of Michigan WCCDBA Woman Lawyers Association of Michigan
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