What is Collaborative Divorce?

When most people think about divorce, they imagine an angry couple battling to the proverbial death. Movies like the classic War of the Roses or more recent Divorce Story spring to mind: a crazed Kathleen Turner chain sawing through furniture or Adam Driver punching a hole in the wall. It doesn’t have to be that way.

In a Collaborative Divorce, each party has an attorney… Each party also has a Coach to help them navigate the choppy emotional waters that are an inevitable part of divorce

Rather than jumping straight into scorched earth litigation, couples can pursue Collaborative Divorce. This alternate resolution process offers a far more humane approach to untangling the many ties that bind a married couple. Viewing divorce as a problem to be solved rather than a war to be won, the Collaborative process represents a profound paradigm shift from the traditional divorce pursued in family court. 

In a Collaborative Divorce, each party (Husband and Wife) has an attorney, but that’s where the similarities to a classic divorce end. Each party also has a Coach, a specially trained mental health professional to help them navigate the choppy emotional waters that are an inevitable part of divorce. In fact, the parties’ first meeting is usually with their coaches, not their attorneys.

After meeting individually, the coaches and parties then schedule a four-way meeting where they develop a Mission Statement: the goals they intend to achieve through the divorce. Imagine still being friends with your former spouse, being able to sit together and support your children at sports events, graduations, weddings.

With Mission Statement in hand, the parties then meet with the heart of Collaborative Divorce: the Financial Neutral. Again, these highly qualified professionals are also trained in the collaborative process. Working with the parties, the Financial Neutral gathers information about the parties’ assets, obligations, separate and community property, earnings and costs of living. Once all financial information has been processed and explained to the parties, the Financial Neutral creates different scenarios so the parties can determine which model works best for the family going forward.

At a series of meetings with the entire Team–attorneys, Coaches, and Financial Neutral– the parties reach an agreement which is reduced to writing and filed with the Court. If child custody proves to be a sticking point, the parties can add a Child Specialist to represent the children’s interest.

Divorce is never easy. But Collaborative Divorce can ease the transition to your new life. 

Leslie Ryland, CFLS, is an attorney with the Schaffer Family Law Group, a full-service divorce, mediation, and family law firm known for effective legal representation and compassionate client service. You can find this article in Discover Magazine .