Everyone has heard horror stories of divorces in which couples engage in long, ugly court battles. What may get lost in the shuffle is the well-being of the children. Divorce is emotionally challenging for children of any age, but parents can take steps to try to increase the chances that the child will emerge after the marriage has ended as healthy and secure as possible.
Collaborative divorce is a relatively new process that can benefit the children by toning down the animosity between the parents. Instead of weeks and months of observing parents who are fighting, emotionally distraught, angry, depressed or in another negative or unhealthy state because of an adversarial divorce, in collaborative divorce the parents pledge to conduct themselves with respect and dignity through an out-of-court negotiation.
Conceived of only in the 1990s, the collaborative process is now used in many countries around the world, including Canada.
Collaborative divorce begins by the parties signing a participation agreement. In a nutshell, the process looks like this:
- The parties promise to resolve their matrimonial issues outside of court through a series of face-to-face negotiations that include the participation of their lawyers, who have received training in the collaborative process. If collaboration fails, the parties must hire new attorneys and start over in a different process like mediation or traditional litigation.
- The parties pledge to treat each other with respect. Sometimes divorce coaches are retained to provide emotional support for the parties and help them through impasses in problem solving.
- Other neutral professionals such as financial experts or mental health professionals may be used to provide necessary information for the parties to arrive at a fully informed settlement of all matrimonial issues regarding the children, financial matters and assets.
- The parties agree to confidentiality, keeping private family details out of the public arena in which the children may have otherwise had to deal with them. In addition, each spouse promises to be honest and forthright, including revealing all relevant information about their assets and finances.
Often, parents emerge from collaboration with a positive co-parenting relationship that will benefit the children after divorce. Any Canadian who thinks collaboration may be a positive way to divorce should speak with a lawyer with collaborative law training about the pros and cons.