World of Collaborative Practice > Divorce, Clergy, and the Collaborative Process

Posted on July 21, 2013


From Donita M. King, Esq., Susan Buniva, MSW, LCSW, and Rob Ferguson, CDFA:

The collaborative model is an outgrowth of a holistic perspective on divorce. The ripples of loss are infinite and the nature of that loss goes far beyond a change of legal status, because it includes a redefinition of self and family. The nature of this redefinition requires a variety of tools and support as people reexamine their finances, lifestyles, values, spiritual beliefs, parenting approaches and the ways in which they relate to the larger community. In contrast to the traditional adversarial model that emphasizes the legal rights of the individual, the collaborative model invites families to focus on the needs of the family as a whole. It also includes a look at how emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual, financial, legal, and community resources can be used to best facilitate the needs each family identifies. There is an underlying philosophy that when given the appropriate tools, families are in a much better position to know what they need and how to best meet those needs than a court with whom they have no relationship.

The collaborative model provides a team of professionals (trained mental health experts, financial experts, and lawyers) to take an active role in the process as dictated by the needs of each family. The family has an opportunity to meet with each member of the team, and the team is then “benched,” to be used in the manner most healing and cost effective for the family. Families get to experience the process of getting divorce in a context that is more supportive, not only to them, but indirectly to the larger communities in which they find themselves, i.e. their church, synagogue, or mosque communities.
The collaborative law process is a process that recognizes the rebirth that can follow death and offers families choices to maximize the opportunities for that growth and rebirth. It is a process that fits well with the clergy’s role of helping families through this life transition, especially in a manner that is most consistent with the values of the church and the sustained growth of all involved. The clergy can offer practical support by helping congregants consider the collaborative law process as a viable option and making the appropriate referrals. This referral could be made by directing them to the website of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals ( This site will afford them the opportunity to learn more about the collaborative approach, as well as identify and provide bios for the professionals in their area. If clergy are familiar with professionals themselves, they can also make direct referrals to those mental health coaches, lawyers, and financial specialists. These professionals could then assemble a team with the clients that best suit the needs of the family.

You can read more at the World of Collaborative Practice.