But those emotional and legal complexities can end up costing some couples far more than they bargained for, warns Carolyn Mirabile, a partner at the family law practice Weber Gallagher, which has offices in 10 locations across the mid-Atlantic states.
"People think they'll save money going through the divorce in a collaborative process, and it's a big sell for them. But I've had clients come here after a collaborate process has failed. They say that they tried working it out, and now they're starting over, and so they're spending more money," Mirabile says.
She adds that many attorneys say they're well versed in collaborative law when they've actually only participated in a training session or two. "I think it's an abused process," Mirabile says.
David Rasner, co-chair of the Family Law Group with Fox Rothschild LLP in Philadelphia, echoes that sentiment. "I have always felt that the term collaborative divorce is artificial and designed as a marketing tool to attract clients," Rasner says. "Lawyers are either cooperative and goal oriented or not."
So who is right? Those in favor of collaborative divorce or those in favor of the traditional model? In this instance, you need to be the judge. You married the person you're about to divorce. You know that person pretty well, and you know yourself even better. You have to decide if a collaborative divorce seems like the right approach – or if it will be the epilogue in a series of marriage mistakes.
It doesn't work well when there's a serious power imbalance, both Newman and Crosby say. If you have a spouse who intimidates you and who you feel uncomfortable around, having one person represent both of you simply may not work. It especially isn't a good idea if there has been domestic abuse issues. "It's important that everyone feels safe when they go through this process," Crosby says.
It also comes down to whether you believe you and your soon-to-be ex are truly sincere about making nice.
"In some ways," Newman says, a collaborative divorce "can be more difficult because people have to take responsibility for their own decisions as opposed to handing it off to a judge."
As Crosby says, "You have to have a certain amount of maturity, even though it hurts, to show up and talk things out. It's divorce for grown ups."