A common question that arrives in the mailbox of this website is “how much does collaborative cost?” It is likely that the writer of the email presumes that, as an alternative to the traditional litigation process, collaborative has to be less expensive. Few things are that definitive and the answer we routinely provide is “it depends.”

There are many individual circumstances affecting that question, and they are questions themselves: how many children, if any? Do you own a home? What is your financial situation? What are your sources of income? Do both spouses work outside the home?

Those counter questions are important – critical really – for the divorce. If children are involved, you are looking to create and support two homes from what was one. That is a financial challenge, but not one that is impossible to resolve. Last month we commented on the critical need for a financial neutral to help you. Most couples could benefit from that expertise.

It is easy to “google” one’s way into a mountain of information about the cost of divorce, some of it reliable and much of it speculative or suspect. One site reports a range of $11,000 to $28,500 for Wisconsin. In this range, the top end is 160% higher than the lower end. Not much comfort or clarity in those numbers. However, they do illustrate the point that the cost depends on many factors.

The complexity of the marriage and assets, debts and children do affect the cost. So do client attitudes. The Collaborative Process does not always work well when one of the partners is only seeking revenge or damage to the other. Collaborative focuses upon the future – what will work best for everyone, even though it may not be what everyone wants. The process focus is what everyone needs so that the outcome works for everyone.

It may also be wrong to believe “high conflict” cases are not appropriate for collaborative. In fact, highly charged and emotional relationships will benefit from the support provided by coaches trained as collaborative neutrals. Solutions often emerge more easily once the emotional conflict subsides.

It is possible to draw some financial distinctions from the traditional “in court” approach by mentioning a few characteristics of collaborative, the first of which is Team Efficiency. Collaborative uses team meetings with everyone involved. No back and forth phone calls and faxes between lawyers debating issues, some of which (parenting plans, tax implications) appropriately belong with experts in that field.

Issue Experts like financial neutrals helping with taxes and asset allocation, or psychologists trained in parenting plans and child behavior assisting the parents, will provide higher quality help at lower cost.

Collaborative avoids the Duplicity of Effort that occurs in litigation. The team works together; meets together, discusses issues together and ultimately reaches a solution together.

When there is efficiency, expertise and concentrated effort, creative solutions are more likely to emerge and a more quality outcome is likely.

Team based activity is embraced by businesses, organizations and groups of people in all types of situations. It also makes sense for divorce.