Better Model For Divorce

March 19, 2012

Can there be dignity in divorce? If you’ve survived your own divorce or have ever seen the movie “War of the Roses” you know that divorce can be an emotionally wrenching process regularly beset with anger, frustration, resentment and not to mention high costs. Unfortunately, traditional divorces are often a zero-sum game where both parties walk away with a bitter taste and a sense of defeat. There is a better solution. This article will explore a relatively new option for divorcing couples that wish to focus on the needs of the entire family by preserving some sense of emotional health, normalcy and cooperation for themselves and their children.

An alternative to the adversarial nature of a litigated divorce, Collaborative Law has recently emerged as a more cost effective solution for couples and families. During a collaborative divorce, each couple is represented by his or her own attorney who agrees to work with each other and the couple in a cooperative arrangement to resolve their issues outside of the traditional court system. Collaborative divorce implements informal methods including voluntary sharing of financial documents, four-way conferences, negotiation, and where needed, outside professionals such as accountants, financial planners and family counselors.

While the idea of a collaborative divorce might seem far fetched to a couple entrenched in the dark emotions of a split, think about this:

  • The average divorce process requires one to two years and varies in cost from several hundred on up to several thousand dollars. (Source: Collaborative Divorce Lawyers Association)

Collaborative divorce can help shorten this process while also saving the couple money. Some of the benefits of collaborative divorce are:

  • cost of obtaining your divorce to be as much as 80% less than litigated divorce
  • couples exert better control of custody and financial issues over a court decision
  • couples decrease the stress and arguments related to decisions involving children
  • integrates the use of counselors and psychologists to assist with the emotional challenges of a divorce (for both the couples and the children)
  • the process is more private than a contested divorce generating court filings, transcripts and hearings in open court

Collaborative Divorce or Mediation

Mediation can also serve as an alternative to a traditional divorce. It does, however, differ slightly from a collaborative divorce. In mediation, the mediator serves as a neutral party who objectively hears both sides of the story to formulate a settlement decision. Neither of the parties is directly represented by attorneys during mediation. Instead, each party advocates for himself but, often consults with attorneys outside of the mediation sessions. The mediator is prohibited from providing any party advice or assistance. Conversely, in a collaborative process, each party is fully and individually represented throughout the process. Therefore, an individual who might not be a skilled negotiator or lacks the legal or financial background to “self represent” might opt instead for the collaborative route.

In either a mediation or collaborative divorce, it is imperative for divorcing couples to analyze all aspects of any potential monetary settlement, including present and future economic issues, before reaching any major economic decisions with respect to the final settlement.

So, can there be dignity in divorce? Absolutely! A collaborative divorce or mediation offer a much more civilized way to end a marital union. The non-combative nature of either process goes a long way toward diminishing the potential hostilities and ill feelings of ending a marriage. Couples are better enabled to preserve and enhance what may remain of their relationship, while inviting a more cooperative partnership during and after the divorce as it pertains to managing finances and co-parenting children.