This post is from Camille Milner, a Collaborative Lawyer practicing in Denton, Collin, and Dallas Counties, Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Family Law. She is also a Collaborative Trainer and Mediator.
If you are contemplating or already going through a divorce, please consider the following questions:
When you and your spouse look back in twenty years, how do you want your children to remember how you both handled this moment that will be frozen in time for your children for the rest of their lives?
Do you want your children to remember that their parents said horrible things about each other to them?
Do you want them to remember this time as the worst time in their lives, that point in their lives which forever divides their lives and their memories—before their parents’ divorce and after their parents’ divorce?
Or do you want your children to recall that you and your spouse conducted yourselves during this challenging time with compassion and respect toward each other, modeling the good behaviors that you had taught them?
Life is all about change, whether we like it or not, whether it is our choice or not, but the change that comes with divorce does not have to be such a negative event that your children feel emotionally scarred for the rest of their lives. Some people believe that divorce is inherently evil, but my experience has caused me to believe that it is not the divorce that is the evil – it is how the divorce is handled by the parties involved. In most litigated cases, the marriage ends with the family members’ relationships damaged beyond repair and their financial estate ravaged. If a family must restructure through a divorce, there is a better way—collaborative law.
In collaborative law, you and your spouse are retooled in how to communicate—something most divorcing parties have been unable to do for a long time. With the support of professionals trained in specialized methods of communication and negotiation, known as “interest-based negotiation,” you and your spouse will learn how to define each of your goals and interests in this process of restructuring your family. One important thought to consider: even after a divorce, if you are parents, you and your spouse will continue to be “family,” albeit restructured, because you are “blood-kin” through your children and will remain so for the rest of your lives. You may not always “like” your distant relatives, but on some level you love them because they are your blood kin and you share a common history and bond, and when it is necessary you can work together for the good of the family.
Collaborative professionals are well-versed in helping divorcing couples restore the friendship that brought them together in the first place. By keeping in mind that their primary goal is the emotional security of their children, most couples are able to put their children’s interests above everything else in their divorce process. By re-learning how to be friends, most parents are able to effectively co-parent after divorcing through the collaborative process. In some cases, parents are able to be even better parents than they were when they were married, because the conflict that caused the divorce is eliminated and the parents can concentrate on effectively co-parenting their children.
While most children (and, for that matter, most parties) wish that their family did not have to go through a divorce, a process is now available to families that can provide a positive, constructive way to restructure their family relationship—that process is called Collaborative Law.