In the process, called "collaborative law," each partner hires a lawyer, and all four parties the lawyers and the spouses sign a "participation agreement."
In it, everyone agrees to work toward a settlement, and not to go to court. And if discussions do break down, both lawyers must withdraw from the case and may not file any motions in court whatsoever.
It's quicker, cleaner, and cheaper: A divorce handled in court costs a minimum of $15,000 to $20,000, while a collaborative law divorce averages $2,000 to $3,000.
Minnesota attorney Stuart Webb dreamed up the idea. It's the risk of having to start all over with new lawyers, he says, that usually convinces about 95 percent of all couples to settle.
"I remind them of it all the time, you know, as we go along," Webb says. "'Know if this is going in the direction it's heading, it's going to be bye-bye time.'"
Attorneys Ron Ousky and Maury Beaulier like the process so much they've collaborated on a half a dozen divorces.
"You're an advocate and you're still representing your client's interests, but you're doing so with reasoned arguments and eliminating some of the tone," said Beaulier.
"Once you've launched the missiles in your first court proceeding you've drawn adversarial lines and people become polarized rather than coming together," he said.
Neither lawyer misses the emotional turmoil that acrimonious divorce proceedings can bring.
"I've seen suicides. I've seen death threats. I've seen people in so much pain," said Ousky. "In 18 years I've seen three suicides.
As Mike and Sherry ended their marriage, there was no shouting. The lawyers thanked the pair for doing "what's fair and civil" and wished each good luck in their new, separate life.
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