Collaborative Divorce

Is Collaborative Divorce Right for You?

What is Collaborative Divorce?

Karisa often quips that divorce is 90% emotional and 10% legal. While the math might be off a bit, this is true for many people going through divorce.  In most cases, the emotional toll of a traditional divorce process is an exponentially greater concern than the legal issues your attorney will need to help you with. 

Imagine the divorce process as if it were a 100-yard dash. There is a beginning and an end, but for many couples, where they are on the track might be different when the lawyers get involved.  It is very common for one person to be pushing to cross the finish line while the other is not yet out of the starting gate. This is because couples are rarely at the exact same place emotionally when one (and it only takes one) decides to end the marriage.

The collaborative divorce process takes this into consideration and treats everyone involved with sensitivity regarding where they are emotionally relating to the divorce. It asks the parties to adjust their expectations so they can both cross the finish line together with a complete agreement on how the rest of their non-married lives will go and a plan for their individual futures without their spouse.

In collaborative divorce, there are no winners or losers. Instead, a team of professionals who provide legal, emotional, and financial support to a divorcing couple help them negotiate a path both through their divorce process and into their post-divorce lives. Everything in a collaborative divorce happens at the table, not the courthouse. A collaborative divorce eliminates the anxiety of not knowing what will happen next because the spouses are involved in every part of the decision-making process. The process gives the divorcing couple access to vital resources not available through other forms of divorce and provides a roadmap out of the relationship and toward independent lives.

When it comes to litigation, strategies designed to win the battle often result in a loss of the war. Collaborative divorce is about taking the adversarial nature of the process out of the picture and replacing it with tools to help the parties heal and move on in a way that promotes everyone’s best outcome.

Misconceptions About Collaborative Divorce:

It is more expensive that litigated divorce.

Some people fear collaborative divorce, believing that the participation of professionals from many disciplines must increase the cost and put it out of reach financially. The truth is a collaborative approach is less costly than a typical, litigated divorce. In collaborative divorce, the expense for the professionals involved is split between the two parties, and the coaches, child specialist and financial specialist all charge lower rates than the average attorney. In litigated divorce, each party retains their own counsel and must pay all fees on their own. Even in difficult cases, a couple can expect to pay less by participating in a collaborative divorce than they would pursuing a typical litigated divorce.[1]

 All divorces take a long time, and collaborative divorce is no different.

In Nebraska, the Supreme Court has set out case progression guidelines as a goal for judges to shoot for when resolving family law cases. Those guidelines seek resolution of 95% of divorce cases within 12
months, plus whatever time it takes for the parties to attempt mediation and take required parenting education classes.[2] As a practical matter, a client involved in a litigated case shouldn’t expect
to be done for at least a year.  In a collaborative divorce, the parties set their own schedule for when and how to resolve the case. Rather than having a trial on the judge’s schedule, a collaborative divorce is done on your schedule and within your time frame. You do not have to wait for a court date if you want the process to go quickly.[3] If you prefer to slow the process down, you can also do that. On average, a collaborative divorce in Nebraska is resolved in seven months or less.[4]

 It is meant to help couples reconcile.

Some believe that collaborative divorce is the equivalent of marriage counseling. It is not. Everyone starts the process knowing that the end goal is a permanent and final separation. If the divorcing couple recognizes that while their marriage is over, their relationship (as parents, grandparents, business partners, etc.) is not, collaborative divorce offers a forward-focused process that emphasizes good communication for future problem solving. 

How the Collaborative Divorce Process Works

A typical collaborative divorce team includes each party’s lawyer, divorce coach, financial specialist, and child specialist. Contact with any one of these professionals can bring a party into the collaborative

Prior to getting started, both spouses must sign a participation agreement stating they will honestly and openly negotiate in good faith. Both must also agree to pursue the best possible settlement for their family without threats or court intervention. This usually occurs at a four-way meeting where both clients and their collaborative attorneys are present. Thereafter, the meeting is guided by the professionals, but decision-making always stays in the hands of the clients. How many meetings the team has, what agreements are made, and goals met during those meetings, is specific to the
clients in that room. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this, so the professionals will assist the clients at whatever pace, and with whatever depth the clients need.

Issues like filing the paperwork to start the divorce, selling, or moving out of the house, telling the kids about the divorce, and handling temporary financial arrangements are decided at the table, not in the

With collaborative divorce, you can preserve the dignity of all those involved and arrive at a solution that serves everyone. Though collaborative divorce is not right for everyone, we believe that it is the most
compassionate and effective way for spouses to end their marriage and move on to the next chapter in their lives.

The lawyers at Koukol Johnson Schmit & Milone LLC advocate for collaborative divorce and are committed to offering it as a viable option for divorcing couples. Karisa D. Johnson is an active member of both the Nebraska
and International Academies of Collaborative Professionals and make efforts to educate others in the legal field about the benefits of settling divorcing spousal differences in a non-adversarial setting.


Lustgarten, Christine A. and Hecht, Morgan Keen, LIMHP, MSW. “Preventing Long Term Post-Divorce Conflict: A 10-Year Study of Collaborative Divorce in Nebraska. The Nebraska Lawyer Magazine, January/February 2017, pp. 21-24.  This article reported the results of 10 years of collaboratively handled cases in Nebraska.  The authors found that the cost per party was approximately 1/3 of what the same case would have cost if litigated.

Neb. Ct. R. § 6-101.

Though everyone in Nebraska must wait at least 60 days pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 42-363.

See Footnote 1, supra.