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Mar 19, 2017BY: Kim Ciesinski
IN: Is Collaborative for You?

Collaborative Law: A Better Approach to Divorce for Families

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If all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. – Abraham H. Maslow

When the hammer of justice strikes in the context of divorce litigation, destruction of a family in transition can often be the unnecessary, unintended and undesirable result. The legal system is designed to produce a winner and a loser, but when it comes to divorce a winner/loser paradigm is an untenable fit for the issue. Family is the foundation of our society and should continue to be supported through the divorce process. Collaborative practice can provide a better alternative to litigation because it puts families first by supporting them through the restructuring process.

Although 1 in 2 marriages in the United States end in divorce, it is still stigmatized and viewed as a societal ill rather than as a normal and predictable life event. In every divorce, there are naturally occurring feelings of anger, grief, vengeance and fear. Our legal system has limited tools to deal with these emotions and as a result they are ignored, stifled, or punished, which only serves to inflame them. When left unresolved, these normal feelings are carried forward into the future relationship between the divorcing parties and the new family dynamic is poisoned by old patterns of behavior. There simply is no room in our legal structure for the proper processing and redirection of this negative energy into a positive result; thus new package – same broken contents.

When a marriage ends, an opportunity presents itself for the restructuring of a family in a positive and constructive manner, but this potential is rarely realized within the maze of legal procedure and process. A resolution in the context of a litigated divorce is either imposed by third parties utilizing false narratives of the parties’ lives or by a settlement agreement which the parties themselves had little involvement in reaching and are therefore not emotionally invested in its success.

There is a non-litigious process by which divorcing couples can restructure their families and define their future relationship in a positive manner that not only benefits the family but, ultimately society as a whole. The Collaborative Divorce process paradigm opens up a safe and supportive place where the feelings and behaviors attendant to the process of divorce are expected, considered a normal part of the process and handled appropriately by professionals specifically trained to do so. A normalization of the parties’ emotions empowers them to move through the stages of grief in a satisfying manner that allows for healing and closure. When emotions are given their due, new avenues of communication open up and a positive future built on respect and understanding can ensue.

Couples contemplating divorce (or those counseling them) should consider Collaborative Divorce as an alternative to litigation because it provides extra support and assistance to the whole family. Parties work toward a common goal of restructuring their family instead of fighting each other which leads to a healthier transition.

Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family. – Anthony Brandt

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