When most people think of divorce, they envision an excruciating court battle with both sides flanked by teams of lawyers seeking to win everything at all costs. And while this is certainly what divorce ends up looking like for some families, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the case for yours.

No matter which way you look at it your divorce is going to be a painful and difficult process for your family. There’s no way around that. However – it doesn’t have to be destructive. By opting for a collaborative divorce – instead of the traditional court battle – you can have the most amicable divorce possible, while making sure your family is protected and everyone’s needs are met.

What is a Collaborative Divorce?

During a collaborative divorce, you – not the courts – are in control of your divorce process. With the help of a team of specially trained professionals, you and your spouse will problem-solve and devise solutions together, ultimately working to create a settlement that meets everyone’s needs. Many families prefer this option to a traditional divorce because it protects the privacy of everyone involved and keeps costs low.

The Basics of a Collaborative Divorce Team

Although each divorce is unique, the following professionals are most often used in collaborative divorces:

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  • Lawyer: You and your spouse will each hire your own collaboratively trained attorney to provide legal counsel. These lawyers are specially trained to be cooperative instead of adversarial.
  • Divorce Coach: It’s a good idea to hire a mental health professional who can help you identify your goals, put your children’s needs first, manage strong emotions, and develop communication skills to improve the divorce negotiations and post-divorce interactions.
  • Financial Neutral: You may want to hire a financial specialist who acts as a neutral third party to identify options, provide education about developing a budget, and dividing assets and liabilities.
  • Child Specialist: This is a neutral specialist who can help you and your spouse develop parenting plans and arrangements that meet your family’s needs.

Can a Collaborative Divorce Work For Your Family?

A collaborative divorce can work for your family if you’re prepared to give up your desire “to win”.

I know it can be incredibly tempting to cling to the idea of winning your divorce, but the truth is this mentality is extremely destructive – to you, your spouse, and the rest of your family. No matter which divorce option you choose, if you enter the process with the mindset that there’s going to be a winner and a loser, you’re setting the stage for a scarring process that can leave everyone (even the “victor”) emotionally and financially battered.

So, the bottom line is this: If your goals are to protect your family and minimize the emotional and financial toll of divorce, and you can put aside your need to win, a collaborative divorce just may be the solution that works best for you.