Why Divorce Does Not Have to Be Disastrous
If you ask someone why they remain stuck in an unhappy marriage, you’ll often hear a litany of reasons – some good, others not so good. Staying together “for the sake of the kids” is often cited as a reason, and it’s hard to argue that it’s not often a valid one. Persisting in a bad marriage because one hopes that “things will somehow get better” is another oft-cited reason.
Feelings of obligation – either to the “till death do us part” marriage vows – or to the spouse who may be devastated by a decision to divorce, provide additional reasons for maintaining the unhappy status quo.
Fear is another big reason unhappy people stick together – not just the general fear of what lies ahead for the individual family member after divorce has ruptured the family unit, but the specific fear of the legal system itself. Unfortunately, this fear is too often completely justified, because our traditional adversarial legal system provides an inadequate process for resolving the complex and often delicate legal, emotional, and financial issues arising from failed marriages.
By pitting husband and wife against each other in a courtroom, litigated divorce does nothing to foster any kind of cooperative future for the couple or their children. Worse, it gives strangers the power to decide the family’s future. Litigated divorce also forces the family to air private and often highly intimate grievances in a public forum. This is always humiliating and emotionally damaging for all concerned. Litigation can also be a needlessly expensive process where hiring “top gun” lawyers to battle things out drains the family’s finances to the detriment of all.
Fortunately, there is another option for ending marriages that spares the family the emotional and financial distress of litigated divorce. Collaborative divorce is an alternative dispute resolution process, which originally gained popularity among celebrities seeking to resolve their marriage issues far from the prying eyes of predatory paparazzi and the tabloid press. Today, it is increasingly gaining traction as a more favorable, humane option for divorcing couples from all walks of life.
Here’s how collaborative divorce works. Instead of husband and wife going ahead and hiring attorneys to aggressively represent their opposing interests in court, they mutually agree to each hire an attorney who practices collaborative divorce. Once the attorneys are hired, financial and mental health professionals trained in the collaborative practice are added to the team. Meetings are conducted with the team who encourages transparency, cooperation and out of the box thinking to reach a settlement that’s satisfactory to both spouses and whose terms provide for the future well-being of the entire family. While each party retains counsel to provide legal advice and guidance, the attorneys function in a non-adversarial relationship free of posturing and position based bargaining. The collaborative process is private, respectful, transparent and calm. The team works to minimize the drama and threats that can make the adversarial divorce process so painful, messy, and expensive.
Collaborative divorce represents a holistic, full-spectrum approach to resolving the many legal, financial, and emotional issues that divorce inevitably brings up. It’s also highly efficient, with each meeting of the collaborative divorce team proceeding via an agenda, and communication flowing smoothly between the parties by virtue of its being facilitated by a professionally-trained team.
Of course, collaborative divorce isn’t a solution for everyone. In cases that involve domestic violence, addiction, or an unwillingness to be financially transparent may require judicial intervention. In my many years of experience as a matrimonial attorney, I’ve found that collaborative divorce can be a positive and healing process for couples seeking to dissolve their marriages in a peaceful, private, and amicable way that respects the interests of the entire family. Successful futures are created when the interests of the family are placed before the interests of the individuals.
There’s no need for spouses to remain trapped in unhappy marriages because they fear the emotional and financial destructive forces of the legal system. By choosing collaborative divorce, which, above all, seeks a “win-win” solution for all concerned, as opposed to a “zero sum” solution resulting in a “winner” and a “loser,” a framework for a healthier and more positive divorce is formed that inevitably leads to a healthier and more positive post-divorce relationship.
Learn more about whether collaborative divorce is right for you by emailing me at KMC@ADRLawNY.com.