By Alan Freed
Divorce. Say the word and immediately angry words, accusations, recriminations, battles, broken hearts, and battered dreams come to mind. In the midst of all that negativity, Collaborative Divorce sounds like pie in the sky, a kumbaya embrace in a hand-to-hand combat world.
Here’s some divorce reality: If you have children, you and your spouse are engaged in a lifetime partnership that does not end when the judge signs your divorce decree. If your divorce plays out as a war, your post-divorce life will start out as a bombed out landscape that can take years to rebuild.
Collaborative Divorce is a process that treats a divorce as a problem to be solved, rather than a battle to be waged. It recognizes that divorce involves more than just legal rights and obligations. It involves complex emotions, changing relationships, child development issues, income tax calculations, and a host of other complicated factors to take into account.
In a Collaborative Divorce, a team of professionals, including lawyers for both sides, a financial professional (usually a CPA), and one or more mental health professionals, works together with the couple to craft creative resolutions of all of the divorce issues—division of property and debt, care of the children, child support, spousal support (maintenance or alimony)—taking into account the needs of all members of the family, parents as well as children.
While the lawyers tend to the legal issues and provide advice for their clients, the mental health professionals keep the couple communicating effectively as well as focusing on the children’s particular needs, and the financial professional gathers the family’s asset, debt, income, and expense information and then assists the couple in making the family’s money stretch as far as possible.
Collaborating in this process doesn’t mean “rolling over” or abandoning your own needs. Rather, it allows both parties to be heard and to hear each other in a safe and supportive environment and then helps them build an agreement that truly reflects the specific needs of each unique family.
One hidden benefit of the Collaborative Process is that when changes to the agreement are needed because of new jobs, moves, new expenses, or any other of life’s ups and downs, the couple, having worked things out the first time by sitting across the table from each other, have a much better chance of coming up with a peaceful resolution and avoiding the courtroom. That’s a win for the whole family.
The St. Louis and Clayton, MO collaborative divorce attorneys of Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal can tell you more about Collaborative Divorce and help you determine if it’s a good alternative for your family.