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Conflict Resolution

A Good Choice: Collaborative Divorce

Pauline H. Tesler And Peggy Thompson asked:

We know from long experience that only collaborative divorce — not old-style adversarial legal representation, and not a single mediator working with or without lawyers in the picture — views divorce as a complex experience requiring advice and counsel from multiple perspectives if it is to be navigated well. Collaborative divorce prepares you to deal with the emotional challenges and changes associated with divorce and provides the resources that can best help you make a healthy transition from married to single.

Collaborative divorce builds in important protections for children, too. It informs you fully about how your children are experiencing the divorce and what they need to weather the big changes in their family structure without harm. It helps protect your future relationship with your spouse by informing both of you fully — together, at the same time — about the financial realities of your marriage and divorce in a way that eliminates pointless arguments about economic issues. It also teaches you and your spouse new ways of problem solving and conflict resolution so that you develop useful skills for addressing your differences more constructively in the future. Further, collaborative divorce

Helps you clarify your individual and shared values and priorities

Helps you and your spouse reach maximum consensus

Includes complete advice about the law without using legal rights as the sole template for negotiation and resolution

Helps you and your spouse resolve serious differences creatively and without destructive conflict

Helps parents improve their ability to coparent after divorce

Builds in agreements about resolution of future differences after the divorce is over

Focuses not only on resolving past differences but also on planning for healthy responses to current challenges and on laying a strong foundation for the future after the divorce is over

Aims toward deep resolution, not shallow peace

Why You Do Not Want an “Old-Style Divorce”

We’re confident that, like the people we work with every day, you want to protect yourself and your loved ones from the havoc that an old-style divorce can wreak in your lives. Let’s summarize the facts you now know about old-style divorce:

It is based on the centuries-old belief that divorce is wrong and abnormal

It seeks to find fault and mete out punishment

It focuses on the past

It is premised on conflict

It is constrained by an arbitrary legal framework intended to resolve matters of right and wrong by the exchange of money

It aims at a deal, not deep resolution

It fails to take into account current understandings of how people are wired, what they need in times of change, what children need during and after divorce, and how families change and restructure

What’s more, we know that old-style divorce is bad for individuals, families, and communities because

It’s expensive

It’s hurtful and damaging

It’s “one size fits all”

It deems irrelevant many common concerns that are extremely important to most people because judges can’t issue enforceable orders about them

It focuses on the past

It encourages unrealistic expectations on the part of both spouses about what should happen in the divorce

It resolves disputes through competing predictions of what a judge would do rather than focusing on what you and your partner can agree on

It won’t provide essential help to you or those you care about

The emotional and social costs are incalculable

Luckily, we live in an era when there is finally a better option — one that can end a marriage without destroying a family or setting into motion negative effects that can bedevil family members for a lifetime.

Why Collaborative Divorce Works So Well

The reasons why collaborative divorce does such a good job of helping most people achieve their own “best divorce” are simple. Collaborative divorce addresses the financial and legal matters that must be resolved in any divorce, but it does so more effectively because it provides the built-in help of three professions, not just one. The design of collaborative divorce — with its team of professionals, its systematic attention to values, its emphasis on healthy relationships, and its focus on the future — takes into account the broad spectrum of what really matters to most people when their marriages end. It considers not only the two spouses but those around them who also matter to the divorcing couple and who will be both directly and indirectly affected by a good or a bad divorce: children, families, and even extended families, friends, and colleagues. It applies what we know about marriage and divorce from the realms of psychology, sociology, history, law, communication theory, conflict resolution theory, finance, and other realms in a very practical, useful, and concrete way.

Collaborative Divorce Deals With What People Actually Experience in Divorce

Unlike any other divorce conflict resolution process that has come before, collaborative divorce teams make constant use of vital information about how people are “wired,” how we think, how our emotions affect our ability to communicate effectively and to process information, how we experience pain and loss, how we recover from the end of a marriage, what our children are experiencing and what they need in the divorce, and what the needs of each member of the family after the divorce are likely to be. In this way, collaborative divorce offers constructive, comprehensive, multidisciplinary professional support that responds to the actual complexities of divorce as people experience it, rather than imposing an old-fashioned, limited institutional legal point of view as the sole perspective on a complex human experience.

Reprinted from Collaborative Divorce: The Revolutionary New Way to Restructure Your Family, Resolve Legal Issues, and Move on with Your Life by Pauline H. Tesler, M.A., J.D., & Peggy Thompson, Ph.D. Copyright © 2006 Pauline H. Tesler & Peggy Thompson. Published by Regan Books; June 2006;$25.95US/$33.50CAN; 0-06-088943-8

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