Unmarried and have children? You may be interested to know that “Collaborative Divorce” is not just for divorce. Learn how the collaborative process can help you. First, it may be relieving to know that you are not alone. There are some interesting recent statistics related to marriage and children. Nearly half of children in America are born outside of marriage. And, for women under 30, most children are born outside of marriage. Whether you are married or not, if you separate from the other parent, you’ll need to figure out custody, parenting time and financial support issues related to your children. These are legal issues that should be finalized in a court order, either by agreement reached in the collaborative process or mediation, or by a court decision after a trial. There is a great online resource related to unmarried parents (useful to both unmarried mothers and unmarried fathers), available here for free from Legal Services State Support. The collaborative process is designed to increase communication and trust while helping you resolve these issues. You might be interested to know that this website, collaborativedivorceoptions.com, is part of the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota and the articles are written by it’s members. Keep in mind that divorce is only one type of legal issue where the collaborative process is used. Why do I point this out? Because it’s important to know that Collaborative Law is not just for divorce. If you aren’t married but you have children, it’s important to know that you can still participate in a collaborative process rather than taking your case to court. The same collaborative principles apply whether you are married or not. In the collaborative process, you each hire attorneys trained in the collaborative process and you all sign an agreement not to go to court. Then you have a series of joint meetings where you all meet together, many times with other neutral professionals such as a coach, child specialist or financial specialist. In the end, you just file your agreement with the court rather than having a trial or other court hearings. That’s it. You never have to set foot in a courtroom and the process is structured and respectful.