I just went to a conference that focused on collaborative divorce. What, you might ask, is a marital therapist doing at a collaborative divorce conference? It's a good question. In 2008 I was asked by someone to go to a training on collaborative divorce and I asked myself the same question when the idea was pitched to me. Within ten minutes of the beginning of the training, I was hooked and thought, "Now this is something that I could buy into for clients who, for whatever reason, cannot save their marriage." Let me be clear. I always want couples to turn a bad marriage into something beautiful, meaningful and lasting. But you and I know that that doesn't always happen.
So what is Collaborative Divorce? (For those of you who want a more detailed explanation, I would refer you to collaborativedivorcetexas.com) Basically, it is a way of divorcing that keeps couples out of court and allows for more privacy as they settle one of the most difficult matters of their lives. Most impressively, it allows the couples to learn how to work together collaboratively as they deal with issues like custody and/or division of assets in an open, cooperative way with their attorneys in the same room working together! That was not a typo. The attorneys work together, cooperatively for the good of the clients, and most importantly, for the good of the children if children are involved. Further, there is a neutral (meaning that person is not working for one client but both) mental health professional (MHP) who helps facilitate communication with the couple (and the professional team) as well as deals with children's issues such as parenting time or making appropriate referrals to other professionals if needed. There is a neutral financial professional (FP) who assists clients with financial matters and can help with preparing for post-divorce financial issues. Often, the MHP and the FP work with clients separately between group meetings in order to keep cost down and get things done that are later shared with the whole collaborative team in a joint meeting. My take away from the training in 2008 and since I have been an MHP is this: The clients that I see as a therapist who are either the children of divorce or themselves divorced who say they went through litigation tell war stories of anger, manipulation, vitriol, recrimination and months to years of fighting. This is NOT the case with collaborative divorce. Is it ever "easy?" No. But it is a much more respectful, decent and honest way of divorcing.