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Collaborative Divorce in Grand Rapids

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Expedite Divorce Proceedings With Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative divorce occurs when a couple retains a divorce lawyer, but they work together to come to an agreement to avoid divorce court. Both parties are committed to signing a formal participation agreement to avoid adversarial strategies and litigation. Sarnacki Law Firm in Grand Rapids has years of experience helping couples use collaborative divorce. Contact us today to learn more!

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Adversarial vs. Non-Adversarial Divorce

Every divorce looks different, depending on the situation of those involved. For instance, there are fault divorces and no-fault divorces, mediated divorces and arbitrated divorces, contested divorces and uncontested divorces, and the list goes on and on.

To learn about all the major types of divorces, including their pros and cons, check out our comprehensive guide to Types of Divorce.

On this page, we will discuss collaborative divorce, one of divorce lawyer Dave Sarnacki’s specialties. To understand collaborative divorce, it is important to first differentiate two major types of divorce — adversarial and non-adversarial divorce. As its name suggests, an adversarial divorce is a divorce in which you and your spouse are adversarie, meaning you’re in opposition to each other. Most often, adversarial divorces play out in a court setting. They tend to be lengthy, hostile, and expensive, inevitably resulting in a win-lost solution. A non-adversarial divorce, on the other hand, is a divorce in which both parties work together collaboratively to reach a mutually beneficial, “win-win” outcome.

Non-adversarial divorces are a great option for couples with children, as they avoid the emotional trauma involved with litigation and a contentious custody battle. The most popular and effective type of non-adversarial divorce is collaborative divorce.

Adversarial Divorce

Non-Adversarial Divorce

Win-lose Win-win
Public hearings and trials Private, collaborative discussions
Lengthy Quicker
Uncertain outcome Mutually agreed resolution
Uncontrolled costs Controlled costs
Potentially traumatic for dependents Easier on dependents

What Is Collaborative Divorce?

In a collaborative divorce, both parties hire their own lawyer to help them negotiate an agreement outside of court. Collaborative divorce takes a holistic approach to divorce by providing clients with an interdisciplinary team of advisors in order to ensure that all legal, emotional, financial, and developmental needs are being met. Collaborative divorce is amicable, cooperative, and catered to the needs of each family. It also allows clients, rather than a judge, to maintain control of the divorce, including expenses and timeline.

Note: Collaborative divorce may not be appropriate in cases of domestic violence, substance abuse, and/or mental and emotional disorders.


Collaborative Team

Each participant in a collaborative divorce is provided with a team of interdisciplinary experts to help them leave no stone unturned. Typically, this collaborative team involves a divorce attorney, divorce coach, financial specialist, and child specialist, if a dependent is involved.


Your attorney will provide you with the legal advice and advocacy you need to make informed, important decisions.

Divorce Coach:

Divorce coaches teach clients important negotiation and communication skills to help them achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. They also offer emotional support.

Financial Specialist:

Your financial specialist can advise you on everything from potential tax consequences of various asset allocations to how to divide up your debts.

Child Specialist:

Child specialists are developmental experts committed to assessing the needs of any children involved in the divorce. They also help educate parents on how to help their children cope with their divorce, how to set up a workable co-parenting schedule, and more.

For more information on your collaborative team, check out the video at the top of this page.


Commitments for Collaborative Divorce

Deciding to pursue a collaborative divorce is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Participants must commit to:

  • Participating in face-to-face discussions with their spouse and attorney
  • Maintaining a respectful, problem-solving approach despite disagreements
  • Listening to their spouse’s needs
  • Expressing their own needs
  • Making informed decisions
  • Pledging in writing to focus on solutions, not threats of litigation

The Participation Agreement

The Collaborative Process is built on a commitment to finding solutions that work for everyone, including children, without the threat of litigation. To that end, attorneys and clients agree from the outset that if either party chooses to terminate collaboration and commence litigation, the professionals working toward solutions will resign from the case. This unique attorney-client relationship motivates everyone to devote time, money, and energy to finding solutions, instead of worrying about litigation strategies, maneuvering, and games.

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Process for Collaborative Divorce

  1. Select divorce lawyers trained in the collaborative process
  2. Commit to collaboration and agree not to go to court
  3. Determine scope of collaborative team (child specialist, divorce coach, financial expert)
  4. Meet privately with your professionals
  5. Meet together for face-to-face information sharing and negotiations
  6. Collaborate toward mutual problem solving
  7. Shape the final agreement
  8. Conclude settlement
  9. File necessary paperwork

Finding Another Collaborative Attorney For Your Spouse

If you’re interested in pursuing a collaborative divorce, you will first need to educate your spouse on the process and assist them in finding their own attorney, if necessary. First, suggest that they visit this website to learn more about collaborative divorce. To find your spouse an attorney, you can either ask for a recommendation from your own collaborative divorce lawyer or look online to find professionals in your area. We recommend using the search tool on the Collaborative Practice Institute of Michigan website at


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