There are Better Ways to Divorce than Fighting It Out in Court
I feel so confident in recommending alternatives to trial and litigation, because I speak from personal experience. When my former wife and I were first considering divorce, one thing on which we both agreed was that taking care of our two boys was paramount. We needed to get through the process without alienating one another further, including managing the distribution of assets, and protecting our children and their relationship with each of us.
We made the choice to avoid the courthouse. As a criminal defense lawyer, I had spent much time in court and had seen the courts in action. The traditional adversarial litigation system is good for resolving disputes when people can’t reach an agreement. Too often, it does this by tearing down the people involved in the disputes. It is designed to make the process combative. In criminal law that’s fine. But for a married couple, there are better ways to end a marriage.
A family with children doesn’t necessarily end because the parents are in conflict. After the legal divorce is over, you will still have a continuing relationship. A common ground must be reached if only because of the continuing parenting relationship. Resolving the dispute in a way that works for everyone is very important. A big part of finding a solution that is satisfactory to everyone is by empowering the couple to make the decisions about the dissolution of their marriage themselves. When a couple makes their own choices on how to end the marriage, they can, with some professional help, develop an agreement to which they both agree.
Does this sound good to you?
Why is the relationship important to maintain?
During a divorce, it’s often the case that people just want to be immediately separated from the other person; they want to disentangle all of the aspects of their lives from their spouse. However, it’s critical to always keep children in mind, and that means maintaining positive relationships with the children and with each other.
When my former spouse and I divorced we made our boys a priority. They are now both in their forties, and because my ex-wife and I preserved our parental relationship we enjoy our grandchildren together. We even ventured to Disneyland with the whole extended family to celebrate our grandchild’s third birthday. We could do this because during the divorce we made the choice not to fight over every nickel and dime and certainly not to fight over our boys.
My divorce happened before Collaborative Divorce existed. However, the way we chose to divorce was a precursor to modern Collaborative Divorce. Our concern was our children. We went to a mental health professional and said, “We’re getting divorced. We want our children to be okay. We want you to talk to our boys. Get a sense of how things are going, what’s important to them and what they have to say.”
That was a precursor to the child specialists so central to Collaborative Divorce today. We work to hear the voice of the children, so we can center the process around what the children need. That’s something that’s unique to Collaborative Divorce. When I first heard about Collaborative Divorce, I was excited by the idea that you could work with professionals to resolve the divorce. You have a team of professionals committed to resolving differences, instead of intensifying the conflict in expensive adversarial litigation.
Who benefits from that?
Are clients better off in the post-divorce because they don’t go to court?
What I have seen over the years is that Collaborative Divorce can be transformational for the couple. They have support in finding their own voice as well as in learning how to effectively communicate with each other. I’ve worked with people such as physicians, CEOs, high-powered professionals who, while powerful outside the divorce, have lost themselves in the relationship and lost their voice. A marriage coming to an end can make a person feel not just lost, but also repressed. Watching couples like this go through the Collaborative Divorce process, makes me think of a butterfly. They’re in a cocoon. We see them squeeze out the extra weight as they emerge from the cocoon, watch as they spread their new and beautiful wings, and learn to fly. It’s a near-miraculous transformation for them. As a divorce professional, it’s particularly delightful for me.
Not every case resolves that way, of course. What I do find to be consistent in cases that resolve through Collaborative Divorce is that supportive and supported families move forward with their children in a successful co-parenting relationship. What I don’t see are former spouses continuing their conflict for years, pushing the other parent ever further into irreconcilable alienation.
Which would you prefer?