The What & Why of Collaborative Divorce: An Alternative Path for Families Experiencing Divorce

By: Ashley DeBoard, Attorney

Whether we are a child of divorce, are involved in our own divorce, or have a close friend or family member involved in the process, divorce touches the lives of almost everyone. Especially when children are involved, it’s vital to consider how the dissolving of a marriage and rearrangement of the family structure impacts the children and their relationships with both parents. I like to remind my clients that they are writing their children’s story of the divorce right now. And that story, and the children’s experiences, deeply impact the children into their adult lives. Whether parents like it or not, they will most often be tied to their spouse through their children long after a divorce is final. There are many parenting moments in our children’s adulthood, such as graduations, weddings, births, and holidays, when the adult children choose to include their parents in their lives.  The way divorcing parents choose to approach the process of their divorce has a lasting impact on their relationships with their children.

 In the depths of the challenges that bring people to a decision to divorce, it’s tempting to want to cut a spouse entirely out of one’s life.  But we know that high conflict divorce harms children.  When parents approach the divorce with the needs of the children in mind, it’s possible to restructure the family without tearing it apart. In other words, don’t cut what you can untie.

The adversarial process of traditional in-court divorce generally doesn’t provide the greatest flexibility or support for the family as it unties and reforms itself.  Often clients feel discouraged by the high stress, high conflict, unpredictably costly, and adversarial approach to dissolving their marriage. Yet clients are rightfully concerned about going it alone without a lawyer to guide them on the law or to represent and advocate for their interests.  Isn’t there another way?

Collaborative Divorce offers an alternative to litigation. I do wish to first note that there is a place for adversarial litigation in divorce. For a variety of reasons, including dynamics of a relationship, presence of violence, or other safety issues, the collaborative process is simply not suitable for all cases or individuals. But under appropriate circumstances, the Collaborative Divorce process can offer the alternative to litigation that many families are searching for.

Ending a marriage doesn’t require spouses to forego treating one another with dignity and respect.  Collaborative Divorce offers an alternative to the traditional, high conflict, adversarial model of in-court litigation.  In Collaborative Divorce, spouses take back the control from the court and decide for themselves about the process and the final decisions they want for their family and finances. This client-centered approach empowers divorcing couples to make these important decisions for their family rather than turning those decisions over to the judge.

In Collaborative Divorce, spouses pledge to treat each other with mutual respect and transparency in order to resolve their divorce outside of court. Spouses have much greater control over the cost, the timetable, their privacy, and other aspects of the divorce in a manner that works best for their own family.  The Collaborative Divorce process uses a team generally made up of an attorney for each spouse, a neutral “coach” counseling professional, a neutral financial professional, and where appropriate, a child specialist. The team supports the couple in making the best decisions to resolve their case while taking into account the needs of each spouse and their children.   With team support and equal information, divorcing spouses can problem solve to reach an agreement that supports the entire family and preserves the dignity of everyone involved.

If you would like to learn more about Collaborative Divorce or discuss with an attorney about whether it might be a suitable process for your own situation, contact Flagstaff Law Group to schedule a consultation. FLG Attorney Ashley DeBoard is certified by the International Association of Collaborative Professionals as a Collaborative Divorce attorney.