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Sunday Feb 21, 2021

Divorce is difficult and the experience can be hard on partners and their children and families. As a marriage and family therapist, I feel strongly that before considering divorce, couples should seek professional help. If there is even the smallest chance that you can keep your family healthy and intact by creating a secure and satisfying marriage, partners, especially with children, should seek the guidance of a professional. With two motivated and invested partners, couples can rebuild and recreate a satisfying, mutual and respectful marriage, if that is their goal. But sometimes when divorce is the only option, there is an alternative approach that supports each spouse through the process in a kinder, gentler, and more compassionate way. Collaborative law divorce can provide an alternative approach that may lessen the adversarial relationship that many times develops during divorce. Collaborative also helps parents create a co-parenting plan that is in the best interest of their children and each divorcing parent.

A commonly known path through divorce is litigative divorce, which takes place primarily in the courts and can become extremely adversarial, creating a lot of emotional conflict and financial stress for the couple and family. In this form of divorce, each partner is represented by an attorney. And each side chooses a forensic accountant who specializes in analyzing the couple’s marital and non-marital assets to determine how their assets will be divided. In this process there are clearly defined sides ‑‑ the husband’s side and his team, and the wife’s side and her team. The nature of the process tends to ensure that each side will view the other as the opposition. There is very little communication between both sides and usually matters of disagreement are handled by motions to the court. These motions are meant to compel one partner or the other to do something. Having to go to court to resolve these issues can cost a lot of time and money.

Collaborative Divorce is an alternative approach that offers support and guidance by professionals who work together as a team. There are no competing experts, as all of the professionals are collaboratively trained to work together. It’s a transparent process whereby all invested parties agree to resolve all matters relating to property, finances and co-parenting as a team and out of court. For example, each partner is represented by their own attorney who advocates for them. And each collaboratively trained attorney is supported by a neutral mental health professional (MHP) who facilitates the collaborative process, as well as guides the couple through the sometimes-difficult and emotional process of developing a co-parenting and time-sharing plan that is in the best interest of the children and their parents. It’s normal that during the divorce process, conflict and emotional distress will occur. The MHP also helps to guide the couple through these sometimes-emotionally challenging times.

A neutral financial expert is also retained and he or she helps to determine the value of the marital estate as well as future financial obligations. This might include the necessity to value a business, or determine the value of specific properties (real and personal).

From a marriage and family therapist’s perspective, if divorce is the only option, this approach accomplishes several important issues. First, the process is designed to create a shift in the couple’s relationship ‑‑ from one that is potentially adversarial and destructive to the family dynamic to one where each partner can be guided in how to move on with their lives and continue to co-parent their children in caring and respectful ways. Second, this places the couple’s fate in their own hands, rather than leaving it up to the court. The couple is supported by a professional, collaboratively trained team who they begin to know intimately and who vow to work together in resolving issues. And third, the process is private and not subject to public records. One other point worth mentioning is that although it would appear that the additional professionals (e.g. forensic accountant and mental health facilitator) would be more costly, research suggests that the time spent resolving divorce issues and arriving at a marital settlement agreement shorten the amount of the divorce process from start to finish, which can be much more cost effective and a lot lower in billable hours.

This process can also be utilized in other matters that relate to family law, such as paternity disputes, post-judgement modifications, and couples seeking pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements.

If you are thinking about divorce and would like to learn more about Collaborative Divorce please contact Laura Richter at 561-715-6404, and I would be happy to discuss this with you further.

Dr. Laura Richter is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist who works with individuals, couples, and families. Her specialties include: surviving infidelity, improving communication, beginning again after divorce and effective co-parenting after divorce. She is also a trained mediator, qualified parenting coordinator and collaborative law mental health professional. For more information, please call or text us today at 561-715-6404 to schedule a consultation to see how we can help.