Divorce impacts all aspects of life. In addition to the staggering costs and time it takes to end a marriage, your emotional wellbeing and your relationships with your children can also suffer. Because it can seem impossible to make smart and mature decisions when you’re hurting and scrambling to keep your life together, the term “collaborative divorce” can feel like an oxymoron. But it doesn’t have to be. Divorce can be less stressful and not driven by fear when all parties are willing to work together towards effective and creative solutions.

What is collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce is a new, alternative path for couples who would like to sidestep the expensive and lengthy time often spent in court. By its nature, collaborative divorce is designed to reduce conflict, because it’s focused on problem solving rather than simply fighting and winning. Many courts recommend that couples try collaborative divorce or mediation before they resort to litigation.  

How does collaborative divorce work?

You and your partner must both agree that you’d both like to use cooperative strategies rather than traditional litigation in court. If you choose to have legal representation, both of your lawyers agree to avoid traditional adversarial strategies. You, your spouse, and your legal representation agree that if a settlement is not reached through collaborative divorce efforts, then your current lawyer will not represent you in any future litigation.

Often a neutral third party, such as a mental health professional, serves as an expert guiding the process of communication and helping to reduce overall anxiety in the room. This professional will facilitate constructive talk, encourage creative solutions, and help each person feel like they’ve been heard. He or she can also help shift the focus onto how parent-child relationships can be strengthened during this difficult time. You’re working towards divorce, but simultaneously learning the skills you need to effectively solve family issues in the future.

When you agree to collaborative divorce, you agree to listen to the other party, prioritize your children’s interest, and maintain open and fair communication. You’re also agreeing to listen and consider any feedback given to you by a neutral professional about the process.

How can I benefit from collaborative divorce services?

These are just a few of the potential benefits of choosing a collaborative approach:

  • Saving time and money
  • Avoiding the emotional upheaval of litigation
  • Experiencing open and honest communication
  • Setting a standard for handling future disputes
  • Maintaining privacy about family and financial information
  • Finding the best result that works for you and your family

How do I get started?

When you begin the process, it’s important that both parties agree to a collaborative approach. You don’t have to agree on every issue, such as child custody or property division, but you do both have to acknowledge that a constructive conversation is the best approach. You also both need attorneys who are willing to set aside the desire to win and prioritize finding the best solution for you and your family. Having a neutral professional like a licensed professional counselor is also key to a successful resolution. Find someone who’s experienced with mediation and has the appropriate certification or licensure for your state.

Remember, you and your ex don’t have to agree on everything to try collaborative divorce. You just have to be committed to a creative solution that’s best for the emotional and financial health of you and your family. Often the time spent in the collaborative process can help set the standard for solving future problems with less anxiety and conflict. Divorce doesn’t have to be the beginning of a long battle—it can be an opportunity to develop the skills you need to rebuild the best life for yourself and your family.