The worst type of divorce for everyone is a contested divorce. That is one where the decisions are left to a judge after the parties "fight it out" in court. This type of case exacts a great cost financially and emotionally.

A recent trend in the law has been to have the parties handle their divorces through the collaborative process. In this process, the parties and the professionals (who are trained to handle cases collaboratively) sign an Agreement which provides that all discussions will be held in the open and that there will be full disclosure. If there is not a successful resolution of the issues, the parties must hire different attorneys to take the matter to court. The collaborative meetings are held with the "team members" present. The parties will each have a divorce coach who is a mental health professional. If there are children, there may be a child specialist. There also may be a financial specialist to deal with the money and property issues. While the meetings can involve a significant expense, they still resolve cases with less expense than a contested case.

In a cooperative divorce, there is no requirement that all meetings be held as a group nor is there a requirement that new counsel be obtained if an agreement is not reached. The parties may be referred out to other experts on an as needed basis. These differences keep the cost down significantlt while achieving many of the same goals of collaborative divorce.

Mary G. Commander is a trained Collaborative Divorce Practitioner and Mediator in Norfolk, VA.