Changing the way people divorce or separate by reducing conflict and improving the lives of families
The Connecticut Council for Non-Adversarial Divorce (CCND) is the statewide non-profit professional organization of Connecticut mediators and collaborative divorce practitioners. Our members includes attorneys, mental health professionals and financial specialists. CCND’s mission is to promote peaceful and respectful divorce processes throughout Connecticut.
Persons seeking a divorce might assume that litigation, or an adversarial legal process in which parties oppose each other, is the only pathway to divorce. That is not the case. In Connecticut, mediation and collaboration are well-established, non-adversarial divorce processes fully recognized by the judicial system. Both of these processes protect any children involved and the rights of each spouse; they simply call for the divorcing parties to work honestly, openly, and in good faith toward a fair settlement. While, in some instances, litigation may be the best option for divorcing couples, it is the aim of CCND to educate the public about non-adversarial processes so that divorcing couples can make well-informed choices.
The information on this website is CCND-approved, but it is advised that anyone considering divorce consult with a divorce professional to secure a complete and clear understanding of all available options. You may wish to use CCND’s professional directory for this purpose.
The divorce mediation process begins when both spouses decide that mediation best matches how they want to reach a divorce agreement. They then hire a mediator to serve as a neutral third party. The mediator guides conversations, helping people in conflict explore options and reach a divorce settlement that works for everyone involved. Divorce mediators may be attorneys who have experience in divorce cases, or non-attorney professional mediators who have been trained to facilitate the mediation process.
In mediation, the emphasis is on maintaining communication between spouses so that they can make joint decisions leading to a divorce settlement. The mediator does not make decisions for the divorcing couple. Throughout the mediation process, one or both spouses, or the mediator (with permission from the spouses) often hires additional professionals, such as family therapists and financial experts, so that their expertise can inform and help the process.
Once an agreement is in place, the spouses must engage an attorney who reviews it to ensure that it is fair and equitable and in the best interests of both parties. The agreement is then submitted to the family court for final review. In rare instances, the family court judge may schedule an online hearing but, for the most part, once the settlement is reviewed, a divorce is granted.
Collaborative Divorce is a non-adversarial process in which each spouse retains their own, specially-trained collaborative divorce attorney to represent them and, through a series of meetings, negotiate a mutually satisfying agreement. Throughout the collaborative process, one or both spouses, or, the attorneys (with permission from the spouses) often hire additional professionals, such as family therapists and financial experts, so that their expertise can inform and help the process. Any financial expert who joins the process is a ”neutral” in that they are not there to represent one or the other party.
While the collaborative process requires the attorneys and the divorcing couple to appear before the family court at the end of the process (so the judge can approve and finalize the divorce), no other court appearances are required.
In an adversarial or contested process, attorneys also negotiate with each other on behalf of their clients, with the aim of reaching an agreement. Negotiations, however, can be complex, drawn out, and costly when parties oppose each other’s demands or positions. If an agreement cannot be reached through negotiations, one or more court hearings before a judge become necessary, where the court hears evidence and listens to witnesses. A public record is kept of these proceedings.
The difference between collaboration and mediation:
Throughout the collaborative process, each spouse engages their own attorney, whereas in mediation, only one attorney (or one non-attorney mediator) is engaged by both parties, together.
The difference between non-adversarial and adversarial divorce processes:
An adversarial process always requires each party to retain their own attorney and negotiations take place between attorneys or in court, where multiple hearings are usually necessary. Evidence presented during these hearings are a matter of public record.
Except for final approval of the divorce settlement, non-adversarial processes do not require court appearances, and they are completely confidential; there is no public record of conversations or negotiations.
Frequently Asked Questions
I want a peaceful divorce. Now what do I do?
You’ll want to tell your spouse, of course, but it may be helpful to first gain an understanding of the non-adversarial processes so that when you refer to a peaceful divorce you can share something of what you’ve learned. A CCND professional can always clarify the processes and options.
If communication problems interfere with talking candidly, then you can consider using a mental health professional to help; many are listed on CCND’s professional directory. Bear in mind that your spouse may need time to understand and accept your decision before being ready to take in much information or embark on a divorce process. Allowing that time lays a good foundation for mediation or collaboration.
People often believe that the divorce process must begin with a marshal serving court papers. In non-adversarial processes you will not need a marshal.
How are the best interests of children protected during a non-adversarial process?
Mediation and collaborative professionals are trained in helping divorcing couples recognize and choose child placement and custody arrangements that serve the best interests of the children. Quite often, family- or child therapists are brought into the process so that children’s needs are thoroughly explored and well-represented. These experts can also help parents develop and implement parenting plans that can be put into place peacefully and effectively.
Can we mediate or collaborate if we fight all the time?
Divorcing couples rarely get along, but that does not mean litigation is your only (or best) option. You can end your marriage without litigation if you have the same goal in mind: divorcing while minimizing the emotional and financial impact on your family and staying out of the courtroom. CCND professionals are trained to help you focus on resolving the issues and not get sidetracked by the past.
How do we know whether mediation or collaborative is a better process for us?
There is no simple answer to this question, but your CCND professional can help you evaluate your options and choose the process that fits your family best.
Best time to start…
The best time to meet with a mediator or collaborative professional is before you separate. Your mediator or collaborative team can help you create interim plans that work for your family and budget, and address the difficulties of transitioning out of your marriage. Even if you have already separated or begun the litigation process you can still choose to pursue a non-adversarial path to divorce.
My spouse has a very strong personality. How can I be sure my interests are taken into account?
CCND mediators and collaborators are trained to keep the conversation balanced and allow each person to have a voice. We do this by giving each person uninterrupted time to speak, helping people work through strong emotions, and creating space in the conversation that allows for creative and thoughtful problem-solving. No case is too complicated for mediation or collaboration.
Why do I need to hire more than one professional?
Different professionals bring different skills to the table. Utilizing a team with the right combination of skills will be more effective and cost-efficient than old-fashioned litigation. For families with young children a child specialist help develop age-appropriate parenting plans. If there are closely held business interests a financial professional will be indispensable in creating a responsible financial plan for your family.
Do we still have to go to court?
Mediation and Collaboration is fair and legally enforceable
If you are divorcing or separating, we are a multi-faceted resource for you to learn about your options. By making the right choice in the beginning, and choosing to mediate or collaborate rather than litigate the end of your marriage, we can help prevent a bitter, endless or expensive struggle; create a respectful process for you and your children; and work out a fair, legally enforceable settlement.
We offer a free searchable database for finding a mediator, collaborative divorce practitioner or other divorce professional. This list includes individuals from the legal, mental health and financial professions.
Comparison of Divorce Options in CT
|WHO CONTROLS THE PROCESS?||You and your spouse control the process and make final decisions.||You and your spouse control the process and make final decisions.||Attorneys control process and a judge makes final decisions if you cannot agree.|
|PRIVACY||The mediation process and negotiations are conducted privately.||The collaborative process and negotiations are conducted privately.||Litigated disputes are conducted in an open court.
|DEGREE OF ADVERSITY||You and your spouse pledge mutual respect and openness.||You and your spouse pledge mutual respect and openness||The court process assumes that you cannot communicate without fighting.
|INVOLVEMENT OF LAWYERS||Mediators do not represent you and do not appear in court. CCND recommends that you hire outside attorneys as review counsel.||You and your spouse each retain lawyers who assist in developing an agreement. Your lawyer looks after your interests while working with your spouse’s lawyer.||Lawyers fight to win, which comes at a financial and emotional cost for everyone.
|USE OF OUTSIDE EXPERTS||Jointly retained specialists provide information and guidance, helping you and your spouse develop informed, mutually beneficial, solutions.||Jointly retained specialists provide information and guidance helping you and your spouse develop informed, mutually beneficial solutions.||Competing experts are hired to support the litigants’ positions, often at great expense.
|FACILITATION OF COMMUNICATION||Skilled mediators effectively facilitate communication between you and your spouse.||Your team of collaborative specialists educate and assist you and your spouse on how to effectively communicate with each other. Divorce coaches specialize in facilitating communication.||You and your spouse negotiate through your lawyers, often impairing communication with your spouse|
|TIMETABLE||You and your spouse create your timetable.||You and your spouse create your timetable.||You are subjected to the timetable of the court. Delays are common, both in court and between appearances.
|COST||Usually the least expensive model, because you are utilizing a single professional.||Costs are manageable, usually less expensive than litigation; the team model is cost-effective in its use of financial and mental health professionals.||Costs are unpredictable and can escalate rapidly, including frequent returns to court during and after your divorce.
|CHOOSING YOUR APPROACH||Both spouses agree to participate in a respectful and positive process.||Both spouses agree to participate in a respectful and positive process.||The legal process begins with a Marshal serving papers, and can often involve repeated court dates and Orders.
CCND – A GOOD DIVORCE
An attorney you hire for advice and guidance through the mediation process, and who will review your mediated agreement with you before it is finalized.
Mental health professionals who are specially trained to facilitate the collaborative process, and create developmentally appropriate parenting plans.