BrideThe following article is by Washington attorney Karin Quirk. She refers to "cooperative divorce," although we practice "collaborative divorce" in Georgia. The approaches and philosophies appear to be similar and she practices with both methods.

Recently while working with a couple to end their marriage I had a sense that something was missing. Through a lot of negotiation and hard work we had developed a parenting plan, support orders and the property settlement agreement. The final divorce would be completed without engaging in litigation. But I felt something was still missing. The negotiations had taken their toll and this couple was so angry it would be impossible to be in the same room at major events in their children’s lives. I consider this a loss to both parties and a loss to their children.

How often we read in advice columns about a bride and groom conflicted because a mother insisted she would not attend the wedding if the father was there or the father would not attend college graduation or come to a birthday party if mother was present. What a disservice these parents had done to their son or daughter. Could it have been possible to have divorced differently so the future relationship could be more harmonious?

There is a growing group of divorce attorneys and marriage counselors who insist it is possible. The way a couple handle the divorce process can affect their future relationship with their children and each other. If the divorce is handled in a non-adversarial process with mutual respect the parties can move forward with their lives unburdened by the emotional baggage of a high conflict divorce.

This “respectful” divorce can be handled through mediation, collaborative law or mutual, interest-based negotiation. I categorize this type of divorce under the overall term of “cooperative divorce”.

Is a Cooperative Divorce right for you?

Choosing a cooperative divorce means that you value an approach that focuses on the needs of the entire family. If you answer "Yes" to most of the questions below, a cooperative process is right for you.

• Are you more interested in moving on with your life than in perpetuating a marital battle in court?

• Do you want to be in control of your future, including custody and financial support issues, rather than relying on a court’s decision?

• Do you want your divorce to be between you and your spouse and not aired in public?

• Do you want to end the emotional battle–the anger, upset and fighting?

• Do you want to be treated with respect and dignity during your divorce process?

If you have children:

• Do you and your partner feel your children are your primary responsibility when making financial plans?

• Do you want to preserve your children’s emotional health during and after the divorce?

• Do you want your children to be able to invite both their parents to all the special events in their life?

Think about your future legacy.

In a cooperative divorce the parties and the "team" focus on the future. Even adult children can be a factor. Think about what it will look like when there are grandchildren. Don’t you want everyone to go to the birthday parties?

My favorite story is of a young girl who attended the final session of her parents collaborative law session. She drew a picture of her family. It was a two house family, but still a family. Think about how much brighter her future will be and think about the impact on her future relationships.

Your children’s special events will truly be special despite their parent’s divorce. You owe it to them.

SOURCE: Karin Quirk, a Bellevue, Washington Attorney-at-law specializing in Collaborative Law and Cooperative Divorce

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