Divorce: the Only Moral Choice is the Collaborative Model

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Divorce: the Only Moral Choice is the Collaborative Model

Statistics show that marriage is losing popularity and many couples are opting for divorce. Generations ago, divorce was perceived with stigma and while that perspective has improved, divorce is still frequently regarded as the launch into the fight of one’s life. Maybe this is one reason people are opting out of marriage altogether. Maybe marriage wouldn’t be losing ground if divorcing people began to choose a divorce that is moral and honorable in its approach.

I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen who is considering divorce to opt for a Collaborative Divorce. This choice represents a moral and ethical decision for the integrity of our society. To divorce collaboratively states that the needs of the children and their transitioning family context deserve to be treated with respect, care, loving kindness…and nothing less. This needs to become a core value for every divorcing family because the family is the foundation for our society at large.

Collaborative Divorce is a means for uncoupling that utilizes an interdisciplinary team of professionals; each trained and skilled in providing resolution and closure to the legal, emotional and financial dimension inherent in every divorce. The divorcing couple is cocooned within the safety net of their professional team and become empowered to respectfully gather and share necessary information,; brainstorm all the possible options in transitioning their assets and debts; and, kindly make agreements each can live with as they move forward in a two-household family. They work together with their team to listen to the voice of their kids and hold their children’s concerns at the forefront.

I have been practicing in this model for more than a decade and I am pretty passionate about the notion that our society needs to move into an honorable point of view that Collaborative Divorce is naturally the only way for a family to make a life-altering transition that truly serves the greater good.

If you or someone you know is considering a divorce, please learn more about Collaborative Divorce and take the high-minded path for the good of the family and for the good of society. It is your moral responsibility to do so. If you are a divorce professional (legal, mental health, or financial), please take the Collaborative Divorce Full Team Training on November 3rd, 4th, 5th in Phoenix, AZ. Check out our website Collaborative Divorce Institute (at www.collaborativedivorceinstitute.com) for more information.


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Divorce and Children: Protecting the Innocent

Divorce can become a very self-centered time for parents. I do not mean this in a judgmental way. There, but for the grace of God, go I. During my divorce, which took place over 25 years ago, I became so anxious for my own future, I didn’t take the time to empathize with my children’s experience and I believe they suffered as a result.

This is so sad because secure attachment for children is key to their healthy development and something like divorce can interrupt this attachment and in so doing, create anxiety, depression, under-achievement, behavioral and health problems for kids.

Research demonstrates that children who see their parents work to get along, during and post-divorce, fare just as well developmentally as children whose parents remain married. How sad that some divorcing parents, consciously or unconsciously, emotionally abuse their children by treating them as objects rather than human beings. They power-struggle with a tug-of-children that leaves the child internally conflicted with loyalties and betrayals; all this pain for a situation the kids did not ask for and had no control over.

We see this type of behavior when parents repetitively talk about time with their kids as “my time”. Sometimes they will power-struggle with each other about “my time with my child” and demand that any missed time must be made up because it belonged to one parent. As you can see, this is all about the parent and has no compassion for the experience of the child. Wouldn’t it be more child-centered to refer to that time as “our child’s time with me”?

Think and inquire about what your child needs from you as an innocent participant in the face of divorce. Instead of demanding, “Today Johnny is mine!”; you might request, “I think Johnny is really needing and wanting to spend some time with me. I also believe this is very important to his well-being and his growth.” Notice how this approach puts the child in the forefront, not you. When a child observes this type of behavior from a parent, the child does not experience being in the middle.

Also, no matter how contentious your divorce, it is imperative for the child (except, of course, for extreme reasons of physical and emotional threat) that the child be supported to maintain an ongoing relationship with each of his/her parents. When the child observes you being supportive of his/her relationship with the other parent, the child is liberated to continue in secure attachment and therefore, enjoy all the developmental gifts inherent in that process.

If you are divorcing and can not see the “parenting forest for the trees”, get some support from a Collaborative Child Specialist.  The Collaborative Child Specialist is a licensed clinical mental health professional with specialized training and experience in working with children.  Unlike a court evaluator or a parenting coordinator, the Child Specialist does not assess, evaluate or make recommendations. The Child Specialist is neutral to both parents and an advocate for the children. One of the major advantages of the Collaborative Process is to build upon the strengths and cooperation of the parents so they can become more aware of the challenges their child faces in divorce; prioritize those challenges, and then share their commonly held value of their child’s well-being  to work together to meet the needs of their child.

Parents are more receptive to hearing information about their children because they know that the Specialist is not in a position of “choosing” which of them is the best parent, but is only there to be a voice for their children.  Parents then have the responsibility of taking that valuable information about their child to heart so that they can make the necessary co-parenting adjustments that puts the child in the forefront.

A Collaborative Child Specialist is a precious gift to both children and parents of divorce. Seek a Collaborative Divorce and receive this professional feedback for the good of your children. You can find all the information you need on the websites of the Collaborative Divorce Institute: http://www.collabortivedivorceinstitiute.com and International Academy of Collaborative Professionals: http://www.collaborativepractice.com/.


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Have You Considered a Simple Apology?

Elton John had it right when he sang ” ‘Sorry’ seems to be the hardest word”. I believe there are many divorces that get held up and go sideways because one or both spouses refuses to offer up a simple, yet heartfelt apology.Why do divorcing people find it so hard to simply apologize and how would a simple apology help the divorce transition to go more smoothly?

The gift of a simple apology would first require that the person who is withholding one  begin to see their soon-to-be-ex as a person, rather than an object. People ‘objectify’ another when they need to see themselves as justified in their own unconstrained anger and resentment. They are usually unaware that this type of “blanket” anger only serves to cover guilt and shame that he/she is truly feeling regarding some behavior they got into that was detrimental to the marriage.

The most obvious example of this dynamic would be the extra-marital affair that we so commonly see as a precursor to divorce. The offending spouse will often try to come up with a myriad of excuses as to why he/she is justified in the decision to take up with someone else. “I didn’t get enough sex.”; “This other person was kinder to me;” “I never felt like I was a priority to you”,  are some of the typical justifications we hear about extra-marital affairs.

While we understand that an affair is a symptom of some deeper, unaddressed ongoing conflict in a marriage; the decision to engage in one is the responsibility of the one who has it. When the spouse who strayed is coached to offer up a simple apology for stepping out of the marriage, a barrier for healthy, ongoing communication can be quickly broken and the divorcing couple can more readily get on with the business at hand.

Offering up an apology is obviously helpful to the spouse who feels offended; but more importantly, it is liberating to the spouse who committed the offense. Wouldn’t it be better for the offending spouse to simply apologize, directly address the guilt and then release its burden? Repressed feelings like guilt and shame are frequently concealed by rage, arrogance, depression and defensiveness. These cover-ups can hold the couple hostage in a stalled divorce that continues to rub salt in wounds that deserve to heal, scar over and eventually fade away.

There are many paths to forgiveness. One road has a simple apology at its gateway. When this applies to a divorce you are working on, help your client to consider a simple apology. The effect of offering one can be incredibly sophisticated in its ability to promote conflict resolution so that the healing can begin.