You may have heard people talk about litigation and mediation and Collaborative Practice. But actually those are processes that can be used to support you in the divorce process. The Divorce Process remains the same in each of them. That process is one of making decisions. The decisions that have to be made determine your individual futures AND that of your children.
In the end, only a judge can declare that you two are divorced. You remain married until that moment….no matter how much you may be ready for it to be otherwise, no matter what living arrangements you have, no matter what money may change hands between you….you are still married. In order for that judge to make that declaration, you and your soon-to-be-ex must agree on the required decisions. If you don’t, the judge will have to make those decisions and you will both have to abide by whatever s/he decides.
Most people prefer to reach agreement on those decisions for themselves. And most of them do…or at least reach a ‘settlement’. [fewer than 5% of divorce cases actually get “decided” by a judge]. But what kind of support do they get in making those decisions? That’s where the different ‘processes’ I mentioned come into play.
– This approach openly acknowledges that it may not always be easy for you two to work together as your marriage comes to an end. It provides for not just attorneys, but also financial neutrals and mental health professions to be actively involved in sorting out the circumstances and in coaching you two through the difficulties. Your attorneys are left free to focus on crafting with you two the best ways to meet each of your, and your children’s, post divorce needs. YOUR needs, not what someone else thinks you should need. And not what anyone else says you should ‘want’ or ‘expect’ or ‘demand’. You two and your professionals sit down together and help you determine those needs and how best to meet them. Everybody involved agrees in writing that there isn’t even a judge involved until you two reach agreement on the decisions that you need to make.
– This approach also focuses on you two talking face to face with the support of a single person trying to help you do so. This person is supposed to be completely neutral and cannot advise either of you about ‘the law’ and may not even be allowed to draft any court papers for you. The support a mediator can give is mostly limited to helping you each to converse in a productive way.
– This is what most people think of when they hear the word ‘divorce’. A couple who can’t or won’t reach agreement. Their lawyers each try to get the judge to reach the decision that their respective client ‘wants’. And then, as it gets closer to the day the judge actually has to make that decision, both of them turn to their respective clients and urge them ‘you should agree to…” something that the lawyers have ‘worked out’.
These are very simplistic descriptions of each of these support processes. That is intentional, because none of them changes the actual Divorce Process itself. You and your soon-to-be-ex MUST reach agreement OR a judge will decide for you. The question that you have to address at the start is, how much and what kind of support will you need in order to work together to reach agreement?
Collaborative Practice offers you the best option for whatever amount of support you need. If you have any reason to think things may get difficult in your divorce, I hope you will consider this very actively supportive approach. I hope so because decisions that YOU two work together to agree upon, will be much easier ones for you to continue to be able to live and work with…even after that judge declares that you are divorced.