In the Collaborative Divorce process the spouses (i.e. the two parties in the divorce case) make their decisions through a series of face-to-face meetings, which can be scheduled closely together or spread out, depending on the needs of the clients. In my ten years of experience handling Collaborative Divorce cases, I have found that these divorces take, on average, four to six settlement meetings for the parties to reach a final agreement, which is then filed with the court. So, in terms of the number of months it takes to finish a case, it can take longer to negotiate all of the terms of the divorce when:
- One or both parties must travel for work and meetings must be spaced out
- An asset, such as a piece of real estate, needs to be sold before other financial decisions can be made
- A business or pension must be appraised before the division of marital property can be discussed
- A creditor needs time to establish a debt payment plan before other marital property can be evaluated for division
- A special needs trust must be set up before the parties can move to other parts of the negotiation
- The parties have emotional blocks that need time to resolve before rational decision-making can occur
- The parties need time to work on their respective budgets if alimony or other income transfer is anticipated.
Even once all of the terms of the agreement are signed and filed with the court for its review, you may still be represented by your lawyer as you wait the requisite 60 days that you must under Tennessee law for the court to rule on your paperwork. By the time the agreement is filed with the court, the negotiating is done and the tasks are mainly administrative in nature.
If qualified retirement accounts need to be divided via court order, the distribution of this type of asset should be overseen by the attorneys and thus can add more time to the entire Collaborative Divorce process. At this point, though, the terms should have been negotiated along with the other terms of the divorce. So again, as with the wait for the final order on the decree of divorce, the tasks are mainly administrative in nature.
Therefore, if you hear that someone’s Collaborative Divorce case took over a year to resolve, keep in mind the above factors. Just know that in most instances, you are paying far less in professional fees overall when you collaborate instead of litigate.