The following is excerpted from a chapter in an forthcoming book about collaborative forms of divorce.
Many people who participate in Conscious Divorce Mediation are seeking the following:
To Create a Better Life Going Forward
Most people come to the decision to divorce only after they’ve painfully decided, for whatever reasons, that they and their spouse can’t find ways to live happy, fulfilling lives as intimate partners. Unfortunately, many spouses drag the pain of the marriage into their divorce and into post-divorce co-parenting. One of your children’s highest interests is in having your relationship with your co-parent be civil, functional, respectful, and relatively free of destructive types of conflict. Another is in having both parents be financially solid, with stable households. Conscious Divorce Mediation is a collaborative process that supports parties to see the bigger picture and to focus on the prize: successful co-parenting, sound financial structure for the whole family, and a good, fulfilling life after the transition.
To Minimize the Cost of Their Divorce
Because Conscious Divorce Mediation clients usually do not hire two lawyers but instead hire one neutral attorney-mediator to get them through the process, divorce almost always costs a fraction of what it would take to litigate.
To Minimize Conflict
Mediation with a skillful mediator and willing parties helps people find ways to creatively solve their issues, without resorting to war. They may experience very painful emotions during the process, such as bitterness or betrayal. Nevertheless, they are able to get through their divorce with solid, rational agreements, that give their co-parenting family the best chance to thrive after the divorce. As we’ve seen, reducing conflict between parents is crucial to protecting children from harm. Moreover, learning to work through conflict can ease tensions for years to come, if and when co-parents disagree on parenting issues.
To Control the Length of the Process
Because the parties are working together with skilled assistance from a mediator, often without evidentiary and procedural requirements imposed in a litigated process, agreements can usually be reached in far less time.
On the other hand, if needed, the parties can take as much time as necessary to work through difficult negotiations, test out parenting plans, or execute on financial transfers before formally “un-tying the knot.”
To Create Good Agreements
Nobody likes going to court, especially to be told how to parent by a “stranger in a robe.” Court orders handed down after litigation often leave one or both parties unhappy, and there is a high likelihood of non-compliance with the orders, confusion about the orders, and expensive post-decree litigation.
Many people who are getting along reasonably well try to minimize the cost and conflict of divorce by proceeding without professional assistance. They have the idea, often justified, that if lawyers are involved they'll end up fighting a lot. Unfortunately, most people find that divorce ends up being extremely complicated. Even if they read all the rules and address all the required issues, they end up with poorly crafted or ambiguous agreements, and leave out important provisions that a professional would have made sure to address. This can result in parties fighting again later.
Parties who consciously divorce often reach good agreements that would be difficult to replicate in a traditional litigated divorce. When people have a sense of authorship over sound legal agreements crafted with the guidance of an experienced family attorney-mediator, they tend to comply with and follow the clear agreements they made, and they avoid fighting in the future.
Peter Fabish and John Hoelle are family law attorney-mediators, and the founders of Conscious Family Law & Mediation.