How Often Do Collaborative Divorces Terminate?

Good, you have decided that if you are going to divorce, you are going to do it collaboratively.  This means that you and your spouse will each have your own attorneys, but the attorneys are not there to fight.  You hire the attorneys to help reach an out-of-court agreement so you can move on with your lives.

But you may also know that either spouse at any time can decide they no longer want to participate in the collaborative divorce, causing it to terminate.  All professionals are automatically fired.  The spouses then proceed as “opposing parties” in the traditional divorce court route.

The possibility of losing your attorney is a scary notion.  So, you may be wondering to yourself, how often do collaborative divorces terminate?

Statistics Show Collaborative Divorce Works – Few Terminations

Perhaps surprisingly, collaborative divorces do not terminate that often at all.

From 2006-2010, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals conducted a study of over 900 collaborative divorces from around the United States and Canada.  The research found that 86% of collaborative divorces ended in a full agreement between the spouses.  An additional 2% ended in reconciliation between the spouses.  Of those cases that terminated, 14% had reached a partial agreement.  This means there were fewer issues to fight over when the parties moved on to litigation.

The Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals has been conducting its own study.  Professionals submitted 101 responses (one response per case) from December 2013 to January 2018.  The study has found that 92% of collaborative cases ended in a full agreement between the participants. 

These results are generally consistent with my experience as a collaborative attorney.  In looking over my own cases, participants reached a full agreement 92% of the time.  The collaborative process only terminated 8% of the time.

Increasing the Likelihood of Collaborative Success

Now, I think there is a reason why I have such a high success rate.  I strongly favor the use of a Neutral Collaborative Facilitator.  This is a professional who has a specialty in effective communication, family dynamics, and childhood development.  The Facilitator ensures conversations are focused on the future and what is most important to the spouses rather than the past and arguments that may have lead to the divorce.  If there are children, the Facilitator helps develop a parenting plan that is tailored to the children’s needs and developmental stages.

Further, in most cases I utilize a Neutral Financial Professional.  The Financial Professional helps ensure financial transparency between the spouses (think “trust, but verify”) so they can make informed decisions about their future.  He or she helps clients analyze past cash flow and also future financial needs so the spouses can come out of the divorce with a sense of financial security.  The Financial Professional can also help develop financial options that take into account tax consequences and future financial planning strategies.

Selecting Collaborative Divorce

Of course, every case is different. I cannot guarantee that, for some reason or other, your collaborative divorce will not terminate.  However, based on these statistics, if you use the collaborative process you can rest assured that, in all likelihood, you and your spouse will be able to privately, peacefully, and respectfully reach a full agreement.

Adam B. Cordover is co-author of an upcoming American Bar Association book with Forrest “Woody” Mosten on Collaborative Practice.  He is co-chair of the Research Committee of the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals.  He is also a member of the Research Committee of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.  Further, Adam trains attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals how to offer collaborative family law services.  He is a founding member of the Tampa Bay Collaborative Trainers and Peacemaking Practice Trainers.