Divorce is inevitably a difficult and emotionally trying time. You are splitting from your spouse and are about to begin a new life. However, being unhappy in your marriage does not mean you want to fight your soon-to-be ex.

You would like to avoid going to court, but are just unsure what other options are available. Collaborative divorce is a form of alternative dispute resolution, and it was created around the idea of keeping a divorce out of court.

It encourages a friendlier process

In a collaborative divorce, a former couple each retains an attorney who is trained in the collaborative law process. At the outset, all parties sign an agreement that states they will not go to court. The agreement also states if they do go to court, they will both need to find new attorneys.

The thinking behind this is that it will push everyone to work hard to come to an agreement, rather than dragging the process out. It removes some of the idea that it is you versus your former partner and makes it less adversarial.

It leaves important decisions in your hands

Since you are working together, all the decisions regarding the divorce settlement are made by you and your ex. For many former couples, this is preferable because you can customize an agreement exactly how it will work best for you. It also prevents a judge who does not know you from making arbitrary decisions that you may have to live with for some time.

It is usually much quicker

A divorce settled in court can drag on for years. During a collaborative divorce, you, your ex and both your attorneys meet to discuss the terms of your divorce settlement. Estimates vary on how long this takes. Some experts suggest it takes about 18 weeks on average, while others state it lasts for four to 10 sessions. In either scenario, it takes much less time than settling a divorce before a judge.

It costs less

Since the process is quicker, it usually costs much less as well. Your attorney will not have to spend a lot of time going through your former partner’s financial information, since you both provide all this information voluntarily. You are also working together to compromise, so you are less likely to get hung up on certain issues and drag the divorce out.

For a collaborative divorce to work, you and your former partner both must agree to it and be willing to be open and honest with each other. If your ex was physically or emotionally abusive, a collaborative divorce is not a good idea. However, if you think you can work together, it is a less adversarial, cheaper and quicker way to settle a divorce.