divorce 1Marriages don’t always last forever and not every divorce is amicable. Divorce lawyers increasingly find themselves in messy family conflicts that can have a devastating impact on the children and both parents.  Collaborative divorce is a low conflict approach that is starting to gain popularity among couples with high EQ (emotional intelligence), who want to keep their differences aside so that their children can continue to have a loving and warm relationship with both of them in the long term.

Finding a way to split up that is constructive and will do the least amount of harm to all parties concerned needs to be the goal of more parents facing the possibility of divorce. Legal issues control the outcome in court and the emotional issues determine how long and how costly the dispute will be.

The most common types of divorce to date have been:

Contested/opposed divorce which usually lands up being acrimonious, destructive and expensive, often dragging on through the courts for many years. Couples are unable to agree on splitting of assets, custody of children and maintenance issues and leave it for the courts and the legal system to decide for them.

Uncontested/unopposed divorce is where both parties consult the same attorney and there is no formal trial. Parties have already discussed and agreed upfront what the terms of the settlement will be. Only the plaintiff appears in court.

But, there is a new kind of divorce emerging, called collaborative divorce.

Collaborative divorce

The term collaboration refers to situations where everyone is working together towards a common goal for everyone’s mutual benefit from custody of children, to payment of maintenance and splitting of assets. Everyone must win as opposed to the traditional adversarial legal system where someone will lose. Collaborative divorce is not about naming, blaming and shaming but about creating a positive outcome.

It is only possible in situations where there is the divorce is amicable, where there is still mutual respect and sufficient emotional maturity.  Each party has their own legal representation, but they all agree, up front, not to use coercion and manipulation (by using economic or parenting threats as strategies in negotiation), to be honest, co-operative, respectful, integrous and professional. It is not one party winning at the expense of another.

Collaborative divorce keeps needs and interests of all parties first and foremost, and that is that both parents want to continue to enjoy a healthy relationship with their children moving forward, even though they will be living apart.

There is usually a multi-disciplinary team involved including child specialists, financial professionals and divorce coaches, setting the stage for  long-term healing. They are not there to prove who was in the wrong. There is a general consensus to keep the process short and sweet and to minimise costs.

divorce 4Parenting tip: Put the parent-child bond first

If parents and the legal system understood how important the parent-child bond was to a child’s emotional security and stability; that it would facilitate easier learning in the classroom, and more stable relationships with others in the future, then collaborative divorce may become a preferred way to go in the future.

However, for the most part, it would seem:

  • The adversarial legal system is entrenched and filled with heartache and stories of many professionals in the chain making money at the expense of other people’s happiness, and often with no final outcome, causing continual frustration and fueling resentment.
  • Warring parents can reach levels of meanness, nastiness and vengefulness from which no-one ever recovers.
  • The ultimate victims are usually the children who are torn between their parent without the life experience and EQ to deal with it.

Act like adults

Adults need to act like adults when divorce arises and not like out of control, attention-seeking children. Unfortunately, it just takes one party to start manipulating and making threats for things to go pear-shaped and there is often no return to sanity from there on in. The legal and judicial system is ready to work with this fall out, supporting the battle rather than looking for healthy resolution.

I appeal to everyone involved in divorce proceedings to find healthy ways for parents and children to retain the parent-child bond, where possible. Children need their parents.  Parents need their children. And children need healthy role models to help them to emerge from the process with a positive outlook on life instead of having been victimised by the system.

If you think it could work for you, seek out a Collaborative Divorce if possible. Click here for more information.

Nikki Bush is a parenting expert in South Africa. Read more parenting advice here.