Collaborative Divorce: A Participant's Perspective
I had never heard of Collaborative Divorce until I was all of a sudden doing it myself. I really knew very little about divorce in general, because I had never been directly affected by it. I did know, however, that when the "d-word" became part of my vocabulary in the summer of 2009, I didn't want it to be a bloody battle, and I certainly didn't want my two small children to suffer.
Divorce is not "one size fits all."
A friend suggested I call the law firm of Zoller|Biacsi, and during my first consultation meeting with Mary Biacsi, I learned about the option of Collaborative Divorce. As the name implies, Collaborative Divorce is all about the couple working together, with their lawyers and other neutral parties, to complete the separation agreement and parenting plans that will be presented to the court for final approval. Full disclosure of financial information is required, eliminating the need for "discovery," as in traditional divorce. The needs of the children are given the attention and time they deserve, and a pledge made at the beginning of the process ensures that all parties will act with honesty and integrity during meetings.
Taking things one step at a time.
From the first meeting with Mary to the final court appearance, the divorce took us about one year. For the first four months, we lived together still, without telling our children. Acting on the advice of our child specialist, when I was ready to move out, we sat at our kitchen table and gently talked about divorce with them. That afternoon, I took them to my new apartment, where I showed them their bedroom, the pantry full of favorite foods, the furniture I had purchased, and the neighborhood. It was not perfect, but it was acceptable.
Nothing is perfect.
No divorce is without intense pain and emotional upheaval, and this holds true for Collaborative Divorce, as well. However, the less antagonistic approach benefits not only the couple going through the divorce, but it also creates less stress on the children. Additionally, we tried very hard to remain cooperative and calm outside of our meetings, with kindness uppermost in mind for our interactions even now.
Divorce is sad and exhausting, no matter what role you play. Collaborative Divorce makes it a little less so, because of the control the couple has over the process.
It's not perfect, but it is acceptable.