Over the last decade or so, a movement has emerged in divorce court to make future exes teammates in the process instead of opponents. On KERA's "Think," host Krys Boyd spoke to a panel of experts on what’s known as “collaborative divorce" ahead of a conference in Dallas that started Thursday.
1. The traditional divorce process can bring out the worst in both parties.
Linda Solomon is a Dallas-based marriage counselor who specializes in the collaborative divorce process.
“Often, I have heard couples who have been through litigated divorce say these words to me, ‘I hate what I ended up saying and doing. I cannot believe the things that my lawyer and I did to 'win.'"
2. When parents are absorbed in splitting up property and coping with the relationship's dissolve, kids lose out.
As a counselor, Solomon’s job is to help the entire family through the process – that means kids, too, who sometimes get lost in the shuffle.
“Most couples I’ve ever met need and want the distance from one another at that moment. But the conflict – or the flip side of that coin – is your children may need you at that point more than ever to come together and be together as a parenting team," she says.
"In collaborative divorce, part of the work that we do is to encourage parents to talk to one another, and work together as a unit from minute one for the well-being of their children.”
3. Emotions can run high during the process, and people need all the objective support they can get to make good decisions.
For all this to work, Solomon has to remain neutral. She’s often joined by a financial planner. Having impartial professionals there during negotiations is one of the tenants of collaborative divorce, says attorney Janet Brumley.
“And the idea behind that is, for most people, divorce is the largest legal issue they ever have to deal with, the largest financial issue they ever have to deal with and the largest emotional issue that they ever have to deal with in their lives. They ought to have help from specialists from all three of those fields while they’re going through it.”
But, counselor Linda Solomon says, being neutral doesn’t mean she won’t have tough conversations with a husband or wife.
“One of the things I do upfront with every couple … is tell them and remind them a few times that being neutral – and being there to have a focus on the whole family – does not mean that everything I say you’re going to like, mom, and does not mean that you’re not going to get upset with me, dad. You’re not paying me to be your friend," she says.
"You’re paying me to ask you lots of questions to help the two of you make the best decisions that you can.”
And that, Brumley says, can help families emerge from a divorce in a better place than if they battled it out in court.
“We very much envision ourselves as putting our arms around this little nuclear family and trying to walk it through the process so that it becomes a restructured family, rather than ground-up, or what we’ve called in the past a ‘broken family,’ through litigation.”
The Collaborative Law Institute of Texas holds its annual conference in Dallas, which ends Friday.