collaborative divorce

Collaborative Divorce: Ease the Pain for Families and Couples
By Micki McWade, LMSW

With approximately 1 out of 2 marriages failing, just about every family across the nation will at some point deal with the devastation of divorce either directly or indirectly. Collaborative Divorce is a new option that falls between mediation and litigation. The couple and their lawyers agree in advance and by contract to negotiate an agreement, without going to court and therefore, avoiding the adversarial system.

Research has shown that exhausting and expensive legal battles have long-term consequences for both adults and children. Anger and resentment that continue long after the divorce is finalized, inhibit children’s normal development and threaten adult’s physical and mental health. In contrast, children can withstand short-term crisis and change if things begin to improve. If their parents are able to separate gently and eventually change their relationship from an intimate one to a cordial business partnership, children do as well as many from an intact family. 

The top 10 reasons to consider collaborative divorce are:

1.	The collaborative divorce process is better for the overall wellbeing of the family because the couple and their lawyers agree by contract to negotiate a settlement without going to court. They work in a problem-solving mode versus a battle-to-be-fought mode.  
2.	In Collaborative Divorce, the family is the client, rather than one spouse opposing the other. 
3.	The legal negotiations are done in four-way meetings with husband, wife and both attorneys present.  Questions can be answered on the spot, saving an enormous amount of time, and therefore, hourly fees. 
4.	Since every divorce is unique, the collaborative process allows for unique solutions, custom-tailored to that particular family.  No one imposes formulas or time limits.  
5.	The solution is much less expensive than the adversarial mode.
6.	Trained mental health professionals are involved as coaches to deal with the emotional elements of divorce.  While lawyers are compassionate, they don’t usually have the expertise to guide their clients through the emotional roller coaster of divorce.
7.	A financial advisor is also part of the team. The advisor’s role is to help divide the assets so that everyone in the family gets what they need.
8.	If there are difficult issues to resolve or one where there has been many attempts at resolution without success, the couple may choose to work with both coaches in a four-way meeting. The coaches usually meet with their clients individually first to assess where the communication is breaking down.
9.	The team of professionals collaborate with the goal of helping the couple divorce in the best possible way for themselves and their children.
10.	The process is entirely transparent, meaning that the couple and all the professionals share information openly in order to offer the best possible solutions.  If it becomes apparent that one spouse has hidden information, the collaboration is terminated and all professionals walk away from the case and the couple starts all over with a new team. This serves as an incentive to follow the rules and get the work done.

Collaborative divorce was originated in Minnesota by Stu Webb in 1990 has helped 1000’s of families across the nation and in Canada have a more successful resolution to the dissolution of a marriage but not of the family unit itself.

Other article available free for reprint:
Parenting Through Divorce: 10 tips to help make a smooth transition for children.
Healing You, Healing Me: How to start a divorce support group.
Collaborative Divorce:  What is it and why is it successful?
Getting Up, Getting Over, Getting On: Twelve Steps for healing beyond the pain of divorce.
Divorce and Seniors: Successful strategies for coping with divorce and your families expectations.