Attorney and Mediator
August 28, 2019
Collaborative Divorce: Divorce Without Destruction
If you have gone through a divorce, or if you have been there for a divorcing friend or family member, you know it can be stressful, expensive, and even destructive. Traditional litigated divorce is an adversarial system designed to pit spouses against one another, increasing fear, distrust, and animosity. It frequently leaves important decisions up to a judge, and not to the parties themselves. This can lead to emotional scars that can last a lifetime, especially for children.
There is an alternative to litigated divorce, one that empowers a couple to create their own customized divorce process, with the assistance of trained professionals who are experts in the legal, financial, and emotional aspects of separation and dissolution. This alternative is the the Collaborative Divorce Process and here’s what it allows divorcing couples to do:
Divorce with respect and preserve relationships. The Collaborative approach focuses on preserving relationships through a supported path to respectful resolution. Each Collaborative divorce case can be customized to fit the unique needs and circumstances of the particular separating family, providing a process that is the best fit for the individuals’ circumstances, objectives, and finances.
Protect children from emotional harm caused by parental conflict. Most divorcing parents say that their children are their first priority, and they want to minimize the negative impacts of divorce and separation on their kids. Research consistently shows that children’s emotional health after divorce is much better if the children have not been exposed to parental conflict. Collaborative divorce reduces conflict, and parents who divorce collaboratively improve their relationship and develop communication skills which improve their ability to parent and coparent. Developing a parenting plan with the assistance of a neutral Child Specialist gives the children a voice in the process and helps parents better understand their children’s emotional and developmental needs.
Improve communication instead of burning bridges. Litigation can impair or even destroy a couple’s ability and willingness to speak to one another. In Collaborative divorce, the professional team facilitates and models respectful communication, and the parties are generally better able to communicate and to actually listen to one another after participating in a Collaborative practice case. This improved communication helps to lay a foundation for continued connection when it is beneficial, such as the divorced parents’ ability to participate in children’s events while the other parent is present. Extended family and friends are also less likely to feel a loyalty bind when a couple divorces cooperatively- they are not required take sides and they can preserve connections with each spouse.
Keep the circumstances of your divorce and your finances confidential. Collaborative divorce has the benefit of full confidentiality, not only for conversations with the attorneys, but for all communications within the Collaborative setting. This confidentiality helps to preserve a family’s privacy, protecting them from any airing of dirty laundry or damaging accusations in a public record divorce court file, it also encourages transparency and builds openness to different possibilities for resolution.
Customize your professional team and your divorce process. In Collaborative divorce, couples can choose from a variety of process and team options to create their own customized divorce. The process uses a team approach rather than the adversarial one common in litigated divorce. Each party has their own attorney, who works with them on the legal and technical aspects of the case. Couples may also benefit from including the expertise of a neutral financial specialist, who will help to develop a comprehensive picture of the couple’s financial situation as well as potential scenarios for property division and support. If there are children, a child specialist can bring their voices into the process without causing additional stress to kids, and can help parents better understand how to support their children’s emotional health through the separation. Divorce coaches are available to improve communication and assist spouses in making sound and reasoned decisions that aren’t based on emotion and reactivity.
Set your own pace. Meetings are scheduled consistent with the availability of all participants, not in response to the demands of a court calendar. There are no deadlines or “fast track” requirements, so parties can work at the pace that feels most comfortable for their individual circumstances and schedules.
Preserve assets and don’t waste money. Collaborative is a more cost-effective and efficient process than litigated divorce. Divorce can be very expensive, especially when there is a high degree of conflict. Escalating conflict almost always increases cost. When spouses are able to work together to manage conflict and reach agreements, total costs of the process are reduced. Costs are also reduced in Collaborative divorces by having the right professional for the right task. In the same way it can be more efficient (and frequently less expensive) to have a subcontractor work on a particular part of a construction project, couples using Collaborative divorce benefit from expert targeted professional assistance with the various components of a divorce case.
Benefit from the experience and specialized training of Collaborative divorce professionals. How is a Collaborative divorce professional different from an attorney who says he or she can settle your divorce case out of court? The Sacramento Collaborative Practice Group is an organization of legal, financial, and mental health professionals. All members of SCPG must receive specialized interdisciplinary training in Collaborative divorce, as well as mediation training, significant professional experience, and endorsement by their peers. SCPG has an experienced and accomplished team of trainers who have offered trainings to other professionals throughout the state for over 10 years. The organization has developed guidelines and principles for Collaborative divorce cases, helping to ensure that all participants will have the best experience and and highest probability of successful outcomes.
Resolve all disputes by agreement. In litigated divorce, there are winners and losers, and the spouses typically turn their decision making authority over to attorneys and judges. In Collaborative divorce, the process and the team ensure that both spouses work with each other, not against each other, toward mutually beneficial solutions. Parties are free to develop their own creative settlement options, opening the door for resolutions that are win -win, instead of win or lose.
To learn more about Collaborative Divorce and locate trained Collaborative professionals in your area, visit www.DivorceOption.com, where you can also obtain information about low cost Divorce Option workshops
About the Author
Attorney and mediator Beth M. Appelsmith helps clients in difficult family situations reach a positive place in their lives. Beth provides experienced assistance in all areas of family law to clients throughout Sacramento. As alternatives to traditional litigation, she offers out of court dispute resolution through mediation or Collaborative divorce. She believes these options allow families a way to move forward without the animosity and expense that is frequently part of litigated divorce. Beth has lived and worked in midtown for over 25 years and serves on several family law boards and committees.
Beth M. Appelsmith
Family Law, Mediation, and Collaborative Practice
2315 Capitol Avenue, Suite 100
tel (916) 239-2315