The Collaborative Way to Divorce

Note: The photos in today’s posting are from Friday and yesterday, proof that Fall is still blooming on some of the trees. Maybe we can call them later bloomers. For me, Fall is never over until all the leaves have fallen!

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“Stressing cooperation over confrontation and resolution over revenge, the smart divorce is both highly strategic and beneficial” in several ways, as noted in the Introduction from The Collaborative Way to Divorce by Stuart Webb, Founder of Collaborative Law and Ronald Ousky, who joined Stu Webb soon after the latter declared himself a Collaborative lawyer on January 1, 1990.

That was the year my husband and I separated and started divorce proceedings.  If I had known then about this new concept of Collaborative Law, I think I would have saved myself a lot of grief and heartache, because this book  offers a common sense approach to divorce. Both Webb and Ousky were fed up with the animosity and adversarial way divorce was being handled and first Stu, followed by Ron, became a strong advocate of CL, which now is a viable alternative to courtroom divorce.

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The authors also discuss mediation*, which is the alternative I tried, but our anger was so great by the time we tried mediation that we went back to the courtroom. In both mediation and Collaborative divorce (The authors capitalize Collaborative throughout the book), both parties attempt to find common interests instead of attacking each other.

If I had not experienced a difficult courtroom divorce, I would have said that this book is self-serving.  But because I know the pitfalls and pain of a “traditional,” adversarial divorce, this book makes sense!  Just from the titles of the five parts of this book, the reader can feel more positive.

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Part One: Making the Right Decision: How Collaborative Divorce Differs from Other Approaches

Part Two: Getting Others on Board (This addresses a divorce team t address al the issues: emotional, financial, child issues, etc.)

Part Three: Getting Divorced, Collaboratively (discusses the Four Way Meetings–two lawyers, husband and wife)

Part Four: A Step-by-Step Guide Through the Collaborative Process

Part Five: Appendices, which include a list of common marital issues, checklist of attorney questions, sample budget, and many more helpful guides.

Here are two quotes that may give you the “flavor” of this book.

In Collaborative cases, your ability to get the best possible outcome will not depend on your attorney’s ability to gain a strategic ‘edge” over the other attorney, but rather on the ability of all participants to create an environment in which the best win-win options are discovered. (p. 71)

Bear in mind that while divorce is one of the greatest emotional stresses we can experience in our lifetimes, it also provides the greatest opportunity for those who are present to the experience to have a transformational breakthrough in personal growth. (p. 221)

What I liked most about this book is that Collaborative divorce can be a sane way to handle an insane subject, often resulting in better post-divorce relations for both partners.  This is especially important when children are involved. The authors use the terms “dignity” and “grace,” both of which were missing in my divorce.

At the end of Part Four, the authors state that divorce represents both an ending of one part of you life and a beginning of hopefully a better stage of your life.  Looking at divorce this way gives the reader a better perspective of the whole process.

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Finally, subtitle of this book is actual a mini-summary of the book. It says: The Revolutionary Method That Results in Less Stress, Lower Costs, and Happier Kids—Without Going to Court.  I believe that this book and the lawyers who wrote it have made a breakthrough in the whole divorce process.  It is a wonderful book about a not-so-wonderful major event in people’s lives.   Reading this book made me feel there is a less painful way through this process.  I recommend it highly to anyone facing divorce.

The Collaborative Way to Divorce, published by Penguin in 2006,  costs $15 (softcover)—well worth the price! The back cover lists two websites for more information: www.DivorceChoice.com and www.CollaborativePractice.com.

*Sidebar: When I Googled Divorce Mediation, both arbitration and mediation came up. Here is a synopsis of these two alternatives:

In divorce mediation, divorcing spouses attempt to negotiate an acceptable divorce agreement with the help of a neutral third party: the mediator. The mediator’s role is to helps the spouses communicate and negotiate. However, the mediator doesn’t make any decisions for them. While both mediation and arbitration involve a neutral third party who is not a judge, in mediation, the neutral party has no power to make decisions.

However, with arbitration, the   arbitrator, also a neutral third party, listens to the facts. S/he  then makes a decision, just as a judge would. Although the two parties divorcing are permitted to present evidence and make arguments, they have no say in the final decision. (I took a short training course in  mediation and the information I was given matches that of the Internet.)

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Mediation almost always is less time-consuming and less costly, resulting in a more solid agreement than going through the courts. If you are going to have an ongoing relationship with your ex-spouse, such as when you have kids together, mediation can help to improve communication and make your future interactions a little bit easier. (This is also true of Collaborative divorce, as the book points out.)

The Internet articles also notes, however, that negotiating directly with each other, even with the help of a mediator, is not always possible, as in my case. This could be  because of problems in the relationship (such as domestic violence or substance abuse) or because a spouse is unwilling to mediate. Even with mediation,  hiring a lawyer in a limited capacity to consult with you in conjunction with the mediation process may be helpful. Many mediating spouses find it helpful to work with a consulting lawyer who can offer legal advice and review the settlement agreement before it is signed.

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