The end of a marriage or relationship can be tragic enough. Often, the process of divorcing only adds to the pain. You and your spouse or partner may come to see each other as adversaries and the divorce as a battleground. You may experience feelings of confusion, anger, loss and conflict. Under such circumstances, you might find it difficult to see an end to divorce, much less imagine a hopeful future afterwards.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. A growing number of divorcing couples, along with other professionals such as lawyers, mental health professionals and financial specialists, have been seeking a more constructive alternative. These professionals have developed the Collaborative Divorce model.

Collaborative Divorce is a new way for divorcing couples to resolve disputes respectfully—without going to court—while working with professionals trained in resolving divorce issues collaboratively. The goal in a Collaborative Divorce is for you and your spouse to keep control of all decisions involving the divorce yourselves, rather than giving decision-making authority to a judge. In order to accomplish that goal, the parties agree in writing to be part of a process that leads to an out-of-court resolution. Collaborative Divorce participants develop effective post-marital relationships by solving problems jointly, thereby preventing court battles.

Collaborative Practice is based on three principles:

  • A pledge not to go to court
  • An honest exchange of information by both spouses
  • The negotiation of mutually acceptable settlement without court involvement

The Collaborative Divorce model provides for face-to-face meetings with you, your spouse, your respective lawyers and your team as needed. These sessions are intended to produce an honest exchange of information and expression of needs and expectations by each party. When the issues are openly discussed by the divorcing couple with other professionals present, problem solving can be direct and solutions-oriented rather than bitter, angry exchanges.

The Collaborative Divorce model offers you and your spouse or partner the support, protection, and guidance of your own lawyers without going to court. Additionally, the Collaborative Divorce model provides you with access to child and financial specialists, divorce coaches and other skilled and compassionate professionals who are members of your team. Each professional is an expert in his or her field. The team members help you manage the many aspects of divorce—the legal issues, the emotional turmoil, the concerns for children and the financial and property questions. With such support you’ll feel in control of the process itself, and better equipped to begin a new life afterwards.

Questions for potential participants in the Collaborative Divorce process:

  1. Is your ability to achieve a successful outcome in the divorce primarily dependent on the decisions you make during the process?
  2. Are you willing to let go of some smaller, short-term issues, even though it may be very hard to do so, in order to achieve your most important goals?
  3. Are you capable of making the emotional commitment necessary to achieve the best possible outcome?
  4. Are you afraid of or intimidated by your spouse?
  5. Are you willing to try to see things from your spouse’s point of view in order to help achieve the best possible outcome?
  6. Do you believe it is possible for you and your spouse to restore enough trust in each other to achieve a successful outcome?
  7. Are you willing to commit yourself fully to resolve the issues through the collaborative process by working toward common interests rather than simply arguing in favor of your positions?
  8. Is it important to you that you and your spouse maintain a respectful and effective relationship after the divorce?
  9. Have you accepted the fact that this divorce is going to happen?
  10. Do you believe that it is very important that your children maintain a strong, healthy relationship with both parents?

If most of your answers to the above questions are “yes,” you may be a candidate for a Collaborative Divorce, the new way for divorcing couples to resolve disputes respectfully—without going to court.

(Adapted from the Collaborative Practice “Knowledge Kit” published by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals)