Instead, the spouses have a series of four-way meetings involving their attorneys to resolve all marital issues in the best interest of the family as a whole. The divorce agreement is then drafted, approved by the parties and filed with the court along with the final judgment for divorce. Throughout the process, the priority is the well-being of the children.
There have been more than enough studies confirming that when parents fight in front of their children, it leads to adverse psychological, social and emotional consequences. Yet, our legal system, adversarial by design, pits one parent against the other: Mom v. Dad. One must “win” and the other must “lose.” Win and lose what? Precious time with their children? Financial stability? Their home? If we step back for a moment, we see that no one wins, and, more importantly, the children always lose.
In collaborative divorce, the attorneys are trained to focus on the welfare of the entire family, especially the children. We agree not to go to court. And the resulting amicable meetings outside of court help us to resolve everything from parenting time to the allocation of assets. It may take weeks or months, depending on how well the couple can communicate and compromise. To that end, we rely on the assistance of divorce coaches and child specialists. These mental health professionals have gone through specialized collaborative divorce training.
Divorce coaches facilitate communication between the parties. Child specialists talk with the kids to find out how they feel and relay the information to the rest of the collaborative team. Divorce coaches do not provide therapy. They give the child a voice in the collaborative process. Studies show it is not the parents’ actual divorce that negatively impacts the kids; it is how the parents handle the divorce. Divorce does not have to destroy your life, your finances or your children.
In a recent four-way meeting, two parents agreed on more points than they disagreed. Both the husband and wife felt strongly that the children remain in private schools and go to private colleges. And the fight over who got the house became moot. The couple could not afford to keep the house in meeting the family’s educational goals, which they realized were the priority. How many thousands of dollars would have been wasted in litigation fighting to “win” the house? Would the parents even have realized how strongly they both felt about education? Either way, what kind of impact would spending $15,000 or $20,000 each on litigation have had on that goal?
Another couple agreed not to tell their kids about the divorce until many of the details had been worked out, such as where and with whom the children would be living. Imagine the sense of security that brought to the children, as opposed to kids in a household thrown into chaos and uncertainty with parents litigating and at war.
You may be wondering if collaborative divorce is best suited for people who already have the details figured out. On the contrary— those are not the situations that typically escalate. The collaborative approach is beneficial even in emotionally charged situations because the collaborative team, which includes attorneys, divorce coaches, child specialists and/or financial experts, can help navigate the family through the most difficult challenge it may ever face.
Sadly, marriages do not always work. However, you can divorce in a way that is humane, civil and cost-effective. In the process, you may learn how to better communicate and co-parent as you move forward with your life. And who knows? Maybe one day you and your ex-spouse will be dancing together at your child’s wedding. Stranger things have happened. To find a collaborative professional, go to www.collaborativepractice.com and click on “locate collaborative professionals near you.”
Advantages of collaborative divorce over litigation
- It’s generally faster, saner and more affordable.
- Participants avoid delayed litigation and the corresponding depositions and court hearings.
- Participants meet in law office conference rooms to list and resolve marital issues one by one.
- Participants decide the pace and duration of meetings, collaborating weekly, every other week,
- once a month or even just once for several hours.
- The settlement terms are decided by spouses and attorneys, rather than dictated by a judge.