Keeping it civil

Collaborative divorce puts children’s well-being first.
collaborative divorce illustration
Illustration by James Heimer

Over the past few years, January unofficially has been designated as “Divorce Month” due to the uptick of filings made after the new year. “You typically see it with parents of children. It can be really hard because they don’t want to file for divorce in the middle of Christmas time,” said Barbra Homier, an attorney who specializes in collaborative divorce and family law matters at Thacker Sleight.

But the process of divorce does not always have to be confrontational. Collaborative divorce is an alternative option that occurs, for the most part, outside of the court system. It involves a Participation Agreement that helps guide the process and maintains the confidentiality of both parties, and entails a team of professionals, consisting of a collaboratively trained attorney, divorce coach, mental health professional therapist and financial specialist, whose common goals are to reach agreements in the settlement.

“In traditional divorce settings, you have very adversarial proceedings,” Homier said. “When parties can’t reach agreements, they’re forced to go to the judge to make the decision. In this process, the couple is controlling how it’s done. There are different options that are being weighed, and it becomes a very creative way for everybody at the table to work together on a resolution. It can be a lot more efficient and customized to the family.”

When couples go through a divorce, communication skills often are lacking in the relationship. Collaborative divorce, though, aims to teach couples how to develop and maintain a stronger co-parenting relationship.

“The No. 1 goal of these parents is, ‘I want my kids to be healthy at the end of this. We may have chosen to get a divorce, but my kids didn’t,’” Homier said. “So, we ask them, ‘What do you want your kids to say about this process 20 years from now? Do you want to be those parents that sit on two separate sides of the room at your children’s wedding or do you want to be those parents that can help put your kids’ dorm room together without arguing?’”

While Homier advises victims of abuse to seek other processes, collaborative divorce can provide families with a cost-effective option that keeps children’s well-being as the priority. “It’s really healthy for families,” Homier said. “This is not meant to be an ugly, nasty or combative process. There is nothing better than watching a couple get through this process, walk out the door and still be civil.”

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