Do You Need a Collaborative Divorce Attorney?

If you intend to get a collaborative divorce, you can hire an attorney who specializes in that area. A collaborative divorce is similar to a mediated divorce in that you can avoid battling over the details of your marital settlement agreement in divorce court.

In divorce mediation, spouses share one mediator between them. But in collaborative divorce, each spouse hires their own lawyer. Your lawyer fights for you, and their lawyer fights for them. In other words, each person’s attorney negotiates for the person who hired them.

What is a collaborative divorce attorney?

A collaborative divorce attorney is a legal expert who specializes in facilitating collaborative divorces. This type of divorce differs from the typical litigated divorce in that both parties want to end their marriage without the stress and hostility of litigation.

Through a cooperative effort, the divorcing parties work together to negotiate the terms of their divorce. While a collaborative divorce is technically still adversarial, meaning both parties may want different things and may be pursuing goals counter to the other’s desires, the process involves a significant amount of give and take. 

The attorney’s role

A collaborative divorce attorney utilizes many of the same skills that a more traditional divorce attorney brings to the table. However, they also need to be more skilled in negotiating and mediating disputes outside of a court. 

They learn how to speak with their clients about what they most want out of a divorce. They devise strategies to negotiate for those things as part of the collaborative divorce process. And, since almost all divorces involve each party to give up some things they’d rather keep, collaborative divorce attorneys help identify what clients may be willing to sacrifice to achieve their goals.

Am I required to have an attorney for a collaborative divorce?

A collaborative divorce is done with the help of a legal professional. This is considered a standard part of the process.

Mediation, on the other hand, does not require an attorney. Mediators use a neutral process that helps parties settle their divorce together. 

In a collaborative divorce, each party represents their own interests with the help of an attorney. They negotiate the terms of their divorce with the aid of the attorneys outside of court.

What to expect when working with a collaborative divorce attorney

Working with a collaborative attorney is a relatively straightforward process. Here is what to expect:

Sign an agreement

One of the first steps is generally to sign an agreement that neither person will go to court. Instead, the parties profess that they intend to settle their divorce disputes through the collaborative divorce process.

If collaborative negotiations fail and the case goes to court, the divorcing parties will generally need to hire new lawyers due to this agreement. Signing this agreement will likely prohibit the collaborative attorneys who signed it from participating in such a trial.

Set goals

Once you’ve signed the agreement, you will need to privately meet with your collaborative attorney and thoroughly discuss what you want out of the collaborative process. This includes the things you need, the things you strongly desire, the things you desire but are willing to sacrifice, and the things you view as relatively unimportant. You will also need to familiarize your attorney with your finances and assets.

Meet with the other party

Once you and your lawyer have developed a strategy regarding how you will approach negotiations, you will schedule meetings with the other party and their attorney. 

With your attorneys representing both your separate interests, you will all try to decide how to fairly settle the divorce outside of court. 

File the appropriate forms

Assuming an agreement can be reached, the divorcing couple’s legal counsel will work with them to fill out and file all appropriate forms. If the court finds no issues with these documents, the divorce should be finalized, and the couple can have their debts and assets split as agreed upon in the negotiation process.

What are the benefits of a collaborative divorce attorney?

Many people find collaborative divorce significantly less stressful than battling for a particular outcome in court. Because the parties agree to negotiate the terms of the divorce, there is often less hostility involved. There is a greater sense that both parties can reach an outcome they view as fair, even if they may lose certain things they would rather have.

Collaborative divorce also tends to be cheaper and less time-consuming than a standard contested divorce. However, it is not as cheap as uncontested divorce due to the necessary involvement of legal professionals. It is also not as cheap as hiring a mediator to work with the both of you together.

Because the details of the divorce are negotiated in a collaborative divorce, the couple can also make sure issues they feel most strongly about are addressed in a way they view as fair. This differs from a court battle where a judge may decide on these issues. For example, many people greatly value having a sense of control over their child custody arrangement. Both parents might not get exactly what they want, but they at least feel they are involved in the decision-making process.

How to find a collaborative divorce attorney

To find an experienced collaborative divorce attorney, you can search online to see your available options. Focus on attorneys who specialize in this area and are familiar with the laws relevant to where you’re getting your divorce, as divorce laws vary by state. 

Before committing to a lawyer, speak with several attorneys to find the best fit. Thoroughly research your top options, making sure the attorney has a good reputation and hasn’t been involved in any major controversies. 

If you’re looking for a collaborative divorce attorney, you should also research divorce mediation. This is a similar but less adversarial divorce process that is worth considering if you think you and your spouse may broadly agree regarding how the divorce should be settled. 

Mediation offers a less expensive, faster, and easier path to divorce that doesn’t involve hiring attorneys. Instead, a neutral mediator helps you and your ex resolve your areas of disagreement and find a mutually beneficial solution. If you’re interested in mediation, we offer these services at Hello Divorce, which you can read more about here.

Suggested: Collaborative Divorce vs. Mediation: Which Is Right for You?


What Is a Collaborative Divorce? (February 2023). Forbes.
Collaborative Divorce: A Paradigm Shift in Theory and Practice. (2023). Practice Innovations.
Collaborative Divorce: An Effort to Reduce the Damage of Divorce. (March 2016). Journal of Clinical Psychology.
Moving Towards a Collaborative Family Law Paradigm: The Struggle to Bring Non-Litigious Divorce to the Masses. (2003). Child and Family Law Journal.
Founder, CEO & Certified Family Law Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Insights, Legal Insights
After over a decade of experience as a Certified Family Law Specialist, Mediator and law firm owner, Erin was fed up with the inefficient and adversarial “divorce corp” industry and set out to transform how consumers navigate divorce - starting with the legal process. By automating the court bureaucracy and integrating expert support along the way, Hello Divorce levels the playing field between spouses so that they can sort things out fairly and avoid missteps. Her access to justice work has been recognized by the legal industry and beyond, with awards and recognition from the likes of Women Founders Network, TechCrunch, Vice, Forbes, American Bar Association and the Pro Bono Leadership award from Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Erin lives in California with her husband and two children, and is famously terrible at board games.