Still on the Collaborative Path ...
"Remember when we so badly wanted children?" he asked me a few days ago, after discussing some troubles we had been having with our now-teenaged son and daughter. We laughed. We've been divorced for almost six years, but we still have to talk about things, make arrangements for the kids and solve "kid problems" together.
We used the Collaborative Process model for our divorce in the summer of 2010, because we liked the openness of the process, as well as the focus on preserving relationships within the family, specifically with our small children. Because we did not approach the end of our marriage in an adversarial way, we were able to forge a new relationship with each other, respectful and kind.
It wasn't always this way, though, not by a long shot. In the early days of our collaborative meetings, pre-divorce, I nearly derailed the whole thing by causing a bad accident and getting arrested for OVI. Somehow, better judgment prevailed, and although the ugly incident caused major stress and unhappiness, we still managed to meet regularly with the child specialist and our lawyers, keeping the process on track.
We collaboratively separated our lives, financially and emotionally, created a parenting plan unique to our situation, and showed up at Court for the final approval from the Judge. Later that day, when I was back at work, he called me and asked if I remembered the day we got married: how hopeful we were, how special our day was. He wondered aloud if we would remember the day we got divorced.
And I remain grateful that we went about it in a non-adversarial way. Because of Collaborative Divorce, when we have issues to discuss, we are able to talk with each other, either by email, telephone or text. Sometimes, we even meet together at a neighborhood coffee shop to talk things over. We aren't without problems, but when we treat each other with respect, our families and children see it and appreciate it.
The best advice for divorcing couples is to always, always speak of the other parent when children are present with good words, never with disdain or anger or hatred. Children are often unable to choose sides, they love both parents dearly, and they cannot make sense of two people (of whom they are a part) that treat each other so badly. The Collaborative Process does not guarantee smooth sailing ever after, but it does point the direction. For most couples, litigation and adversarial approaches to divorce do not end well, with the parents still able to talk to each other. I've witnessed many cases where the couple cannot even be in the same room together.
Families change. Some families absorb the changes intact. Others simply cannot survive. For those families, Collaborative Divorce assists with a transition that's a little less heartachey, a little more kind.