SUZANNE CLARK, MSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
National Trainer, Mental Health First Aid USA
What is the Collaborative Divorce Process?
I have experienced divorce personally, and know first hand that it's possible for the process of ending a marriage to be in YOUR OWN HANDS versus decided by a judge. This private divorce process can be shorter, less expensive, keep your personal information out of the public records, and help preserve family relationships--if this is what you're seeking.
The Collaborative Divorce Process offers an alternative, non-litigated (outside the courthouse), non-adversarial method for divorce. It utilizes an interdisciplinary team made of specially trained professionals who participate in a series of team meetings with the couple, to facilitate a mutual agreement between the parties. The team of professionals guides the couple through their divorce in an environment grounded in good faith, cooperation, integrity, honesty, transparency and professional ethics.
The professional team consists of:
-- two attorneys (one representing each party)
--one neutral facilitator (mental health professional)
--one neutral financial professional
The potential benefits to choosing this option for divorce include:
1. Less Bitterness. A neutral mental health professional meets with the couple together and their main role is as a facilitator. The mental health professional helps to manage difficult emotions, teaching communication skills and other skills to promote a respectful, safe environment focused on problem solving rather than winning/losing. Especially when children are involved, it can be impactful to have a professional sustaining a forward focus of what the new 2-household family will look like. Divorces are not only about ending a marriage. They're also about beginnings.
2. Less Costly. Only 1 neutral financial professional serves both parties (versus 1 for each party) and makes recommendations as part of a collaborative, transparent divorce process wrapping up as quickly as 6 months. Costs can be less than a litigated divorce.
3. Control. The divorcing couple are in control of crafting their own custom made agreement to satisfy the interests and goals expressed in the collaborative process. Customarily, during team meetings #1 and #3 of the collaborative process, the parties' individual goals, needs, and interests are addressed. This is built into the structure of the process.
4. Privacy. At the first team meeting, all participants in the process (divorcing parties and professionals) sign agreements which address confidentiality. The collaborative divorce process is confidential which can be invaluable to many.
Sound too good to be true? There is a catch....if the collaborative process fails, none of the professionals can continue to work with either party. This invests ALL in the success of the collaborative process. I believe the quote below captures the true spirit of the collaborative divorce process:
"Research now reveals that how a couple conducts themselves during a divorce has a far greater impact on children than the act of divorcing itself.” – Stu Webb, Founder of Collaborative Law