A Holistic Divorce

This past week I attended a two-day training on collaborative law that I would like to share because it is important to be informed of all your choices when considering a #divorce. Disclaimer – this is for #Ohio residents though there are about 18 states and about a dozen countries who practice collaborative law, so please check in your area to find out what applies to you.

If you are considering a divorce, there are four ways to go about this.

A. Collaborative Law

B. Litigation

C. Dissolution

D. Mediation

I’ll start with litigation which everyone knows about and this is your traditional way of going about getting a divorce. The judge may require mediation as a result of this and this is to try and cut down on court time.

Dissolution is where both parties agree on everything and they have an attorney write up their agreement and present to the court. A very inexpensive way to get a divorce however, as mentioned, both parties must agree. Usually this can happen when there are no children involved.

Mediation is where the couple hires a mediator to discuss what needs to happen and they present their agreement to their attorneys who files it in court. This can be done at the onset, you don’t have to wait for the judge to decide on this.

Then there is collaborative law which I call a #holistic divorce. This is where all parties (professionals and spouses) come to a table and discuss the business of getting a divorce. There is *no court involvement in Columbus, Ohio because the judge comes to the attorneys office to sign off on the divorce (*not the same with other major cities in Ohio, check with your state or country). If court involvement it would be once everything has been settled and then there is a filing of paperwork to approve the divorce.

Collaborative law includes two attorneys, a mental health coach or neutral (not in the capacity of a therapist, nor are they providing therapy but, the service is provided by a licensed therapist), a financial coach or neutral and in some cases other specialists are brought in, if need be, for consultation. All professionals meet with the spouse/spouses individually or as a couple upfront to explain the services and begin to assess the couple. Then all parties and professionals come to the table to begin a discussion of what is to take place. This can involve several sessions but there is no court involvement so the schedules are based on everyone at the table rather than dealing with court being in session. Therefore appointments can be more flexible.

What captivated me by this process is that a mental health coach is involved as well as a financial coach. This means two things. One, the mental health coach is there to help determine what is in the best interests of the children and the family. Someone who understands #psychology vs. a Guardian Ad Litem (aka GAL) who, most often, is not a therapist and does not understand mental health. The mental health coach is also doing an assessment to determine if the couple is going to be a good fit for the collaborative law process. In some instances, i.e., domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness might not be a good fit for the collaborative law process. Two, the financial coach presents the facts of the figures. Then the parties say whose side of the page the items go on and talk about what they see. Eventually, how things will be divided up occurs with much discussion from the team.

In collaborative law, even the attorneys are in a relationship with one another that is not antagonistic as it would be in litigation. While they clearly will represent the spouse who has hired them, at the table they are not in a defensive position but in an empathic position for both parties. This means the spouse who hired them pays for them under the knowledge that their attorney will be listening and be prepared to be concerned for the opposite spouse as well. This is important because the process will not be about “winning” for their side but about the family gaining a supportive outcome.

The divorce process is an uncomfortable position for two people to be in. It is a major transition in someone’s life and how it is dealt with will determine the health and well-being of children involved (as well as the spouses) going forward. When the egos of two people can be mediated by a group of professionals who are helping them to see what is in the best interests of their family, it is more likely that a good outcome can be assured. This is not an inexpensive process yet compared to the time, energy and money that would be spent in litigation, it will most likely be less costly than litigation. The results will most assuredly be less costly on the emotional well-being of both parties and the children involved.

Please note this is NOT legal advice as I am not an attorney. This was presented merely for informational purposes. You should consult with your attorney to find out more information on these options. Also, please take a look at the links provided to gain more knowledge for  yourself. Thank you, Jeannine Vegh, M.A., I.M.F.T.

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