The Message from Children to their Divorcing Parents

“Show us that you can work together even if you don’t’ like each other anymore!”

When you allege in a public court document that your spouse has had an affair, what does that do to your children? Even if it is true, children need to be protected from their parents’ emotional conflicts.  For some examples of how parental conflict adversely affects children, see these drawings from children of divorce.

Children (of all ages) want their parents to collaborate and not litigate to resolve the terms of their divorce. What children yearn for goes well beyond the usual method of starting out in court and settling “on the courthouse steps,” as the majority of divorce cases do. What they want even goes beyond hiring a mediator to facilitate a cooperative agreement.

See this page for more information on the Collaborative Divorce process.

When it comes to divorce, the collaborative model of dispute resolution is a unique gift to children, because it puts children’s needs first. In collaborative divorce, no matter how angry parents might be at one other, if they can keep their children in the forefronts at all times, and have a supportive team of professionals helping them do so, they can avoid the emotional damage to children that so often accompanies a non-collaborative divorce. Children, even adult children, can appreciate their parents working together, despite the deep and upsetting conflicts between them. Children can continue to see their parents as the good role models they once were as conflicts are resolved through collaboration rather than warfare.

Another distinction involves whether collaboration means giving in to the other person, or one person sacrificing for the sake of the children, while the more vocal parent gets his or her way. The collaborative process insures that both parties walk away with a mutually-acceptable agreement, not a lopsided one. Both parents are important to their children and children want to be free to love both of their parents without qualification. The two collaborative process attorneys are committed to this concept, as are the neutral coach and financial professional who are part of each case.

Parents who choose a divorce process that focuses on a positive co-parenting future and one that helps parents communicate about their children going forward provide their children with a gift that will last forever. Please collaborate, and don’t litigate, to resolve your marital issues. Your children will thank you.

Is Collaborative Divorce the Same as Mediation?

Many people confuse the Collaborative Divorce process with mediation as used in divorces. While a Collaborative Divorce has aspects of mediation within it, the main difference is that in the Collaborative Divorce process both parties are fully represented by their own lawyer, acting as advocates, from start to finish. The lawyers in the Collaborative Divorce are there to look out for the best interest of their respective clients, and ensure then the resulting settlement is fair, but not to belittle, “position against” or “attack” the other spouse.

See these two pages of my web site for more information on Collaborative Divorce and Divorce Mediation.

Having a lawyer by your side at all times means that imbalances in knowledge (e.g., about financial matters) or power imbalances within the marriage will be corrected so that informed and durable decisions can be made.

When one spouse has been the main bread-winner, or owns a business or has a complicated wage and benefit structure, mediation without the constant advice and involvement of an attorney on your side, can result in less than optimal agreements. Being fully represented by an attorney who is committed to settlement out-of-court, and who does not escalate conflicts, provides the best of both worlds between the mediation and the litigation process choices.

Mediation with both parties face-to-face with their neutral facilitator, or with the mediator shuttling between the parties in different rooms, can also work well and be cost effective. However mediation without a lawyer to represent you is most viable when the marital assets and finances are uncomplicated and the parties do not have a power or knowledge imbalance between them.

How Long Does a Collaborative Divorce Case Take to Finish?

In the Collaborative Divorce process the spouses (i.e. the two parties in the divorce case)  make their decisions through a series of face-to-face meetings, which can be scheduled closely together or spread out, depending on the needs of the clients. In my ten years of experience handling Collaborative Divorce cases, I have found that these divorces take, on average, four to six settlement meetings for the parties to reach a final agreement, which is then filed with the court. So, in terms of the number of months it takes to finish a case, it can take longer to negotiate all of the terms of the divorce when:

  • One or both parties must travel for work and meetings must be spaced out
  • An asset, such as a piece of real estate, needs to be sold before other financial decisions can be made
  • A business or pension must be appraised before the division of marital property can be discussed
  • A creditor needs time to establish a debt payment plan before other marital property can be evaluated for division
  • A special needs trust must be set up before the parties can move to other parts of the negotiation
  • The parties have emotional blocks that need time to resolve before rational decision-making can occur
  • The parties need time to work on their respective budgets if alimony or other income transfer is anticipated.

Even once all of the terms of the agreement are signed and filed with the court for its review, you may still be represented by your lawyer as you wait the requisite 60 days that you must under Tennessee law for the court to rule on your paperwork. By the time the agreement is filed with the court, the negotiating is done and the tasks are mainly administrative in nature.

If qualified retirement accounts need to be divided via court order, the distribution of this type of asset should be overseen by the attorneys and thus can add more time to the entire Collaborative Divorce process. At this point, though, the terms should have been negotiated along with the other terms of the divorce. So again, as with the wait for the final order on the decree of divorce, the tasks are mainly administrative in nature.

Therefore, if you hear that someone’s Collaborative Divorce case took over a year to resolve, keep in mind the above factors. Just know that in most instances, you are paying far less in professional fees overall when you collaborate instead of litigate.