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Collaborative Divorce – Is That an Oxymoron?

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young couple in quarrel 46JCQB9

So you find yourself facing a crisis in your marriage. You land on the side of divorce. Now that it’s decided, can you keep things cordial? Is there such a thing? Can you find a way to do what’s best for both parties? The divorce process is naturally oppositional, rooted in finding out where to place guilt and fault. So, is there another path? How can you reduce the emotional and financial fallout of a divorce on a family?

The truth is, that after the divorce, if kids are involved, you will still have family ties to your former spouse. If you have to co-parent it will be in the best interest of the children to maintain and nurture a healthy relationship (as much as possible) with your former spouse. So how do you go through a divorce, maintain a relationship, and lessen the emotional trauma for the family? Separating couples are seeking alternative ways of division. The idea of a ‘shark of a lawyer taking my ex for everything they’ve got’ is simply not a reality. In fact, a lawyer’s primary obligation when consulting with a new client is to ascertain if there is even a remote chance of reconciliation and urge their prospective client to try to work it out.

However, if reconciliation is simply not on the table, and you don’t want to go through the long, draining, and expensive battle of a contentious divorce, there are quite a few different (and less expensive) options! Collaborative divorce is becoming commonplace and can be best described as conscious uncoupling (thank you Gwyneth Paltrow for this separation revolution).

It is a major miscalculation to think of divorce as a legal dispute that can only be handled in a courtroom. The antiquated divorce process neglects to understand that this is not primarily a business dispute, it’s a family situation. Notice I didn’t even say dispute. My experience has been that differences in opinion around the division of assets typically only become disputes when fueled by emotions or misguided advice of family, friends, or eager lawyers. There are fantastic family lawyers out there, but keep in mind the language of the law is confrontational and oppositional and if things are going to be contentious, your lawyer wants to protect you. The wheels of justice also move slowly, which can only add fuel to the frustration. So even with good intentions, it may appear as if someone is being uncooperative.

The reality is the legal system is not created with family in mind. It’s created as a response when negotiations have broken down and there is no alternative left to explore. And almost without exception, every couple I have known that has gone through the litigation process for their divorce has ended up feeling personally attacked and raked over the coals and the result is a co-parenting relationship that has broken down beyond repair.

Collaborative divorce and mediation are providing divorcing couples with alternatives to keep them out of a costly court process and this typically leads to a healthier co-parenting relationship. Choosing a Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist (CFDS) to be a part of your divorce team will make this process even easier and will provide the assurance that your financial future will be the best it can be.

For help with recommendations on a qualified divorce mediator or collaborative divorce lawyer, please refer to the ‘Our Partners’ resource on our website

About Lindsay Sparrow

MBA, CFP, CFDS

Lindsay has worked as a Certified Financial Planner & Investment Advisor for the past two decades. Lindsay is a transition expert who does her best work when clients are going through a significant life change. As a Certified Financial Divorce Specialist, Lindsay makes sure her clients walk away with what is rightfully theirs. 

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