Search for “emotional aspects of divorce’ on the latest edition of the world’s encyclopedia – Google – and you will quickly see about 152 million results.
Yet it is fair to suggest that most people consider divorce to be primarily a legal “thing.”
After all, the mass media often portrays divorce in highly charged courtroom scenes, complete with skilled attorneys engaged in the examination and questioning of the parties and witnesses, and conflict is the rule. However, we also know most divorces never reach that stage of courtroom drama.
Clicking through a couple of the Google search citations made us ponder whether divorce should be considered as primarily a legal thing at all.
While true that marriage is one of the few legal contracts that require a court to discharge the arrangement, most of the issues in divorce seem to revolve around custody of the children, division of assets and debts, discharge of property, and so on. In other words, an agenda full of financial decisions affected by the emotion of letting go of a home, addressing the stress upon the children and, in the final analysis, moving on with life.
Therefore, in reality, it is about making financial decisions and requiring management of the emotional implications of those decisions.
While not discounting at all the legal aspects of those decisions, one wonders why anyone would embark on that process with only experts in the law at their side.
Might not it be better to identify divorce as an emotional journey, requiring consideration of financial decisions that impact everyone, with attorneys involved specifically to guide the couple’s settlement decisions (and not someone else’s) through the legal “process?”
A sizable majority of the practitioners of collaborative family law are attorneys. That makes sense as the majority of people initiate the process by contacting an attorney. However, the collaborative difference – and it is a substantial one – is that the attorneys are members of a team of subject matter experts that work with the couple.
In collaborative, not the attorney but rather a financial neutral with a knowledge of taxes, pensions, business valuations, etc. guides the financial discussion. In addition, professionals with experience in child development, and knowledge of emotional management and coaching serve the couple to create parenting plans and objectives for the future.
As a lawyer once said in a speech about Collaborative, “I am trained as a lawyer, not as an accountant, or a mental health professional and I can share with you what the law says, but the law is only a part of the puzzle…. Law school did not teach me about parenting plans.” Why have someone not trained in something so critical be your only guide on those specific issues?
Collaborative professionals believe in the team model and doing what is right for every family member. They are attorneys, financial neutrals, coaches, child specialists, and facilitators that know what they know and what they do not – and that is the best thing for the family.
Perhaps divorce is not just a legal “thing.” In fact, it may be less legal than we think.