Collaborative Divorce Professionals of Arizona > The Peaceful Power of a Collaborative Divorce Team

Posted on September 17, 2013


From Vicki Carpel Miller, LMFT, and Ellie Izzo, Ph.D.:

Getting divorced can be anxiety-producing. Many people put off getting a divorce, sometimes for years, because they feel afraid. They are frightened of conflict; they are scared of being alone; they fear financial insecurity; they are terrified of breaking up their family, hurting their children, and embarrassing themselves in their community. There is still a certain kind of disgrace attached to divorce and many fear rejection from friends, family and society at large. First marriages have a divorce rate of around fifty per cent. Almost three out of four second marriages end in divorce. While the divorce rate has declined over the recent past, the marriage rate has declined as well (Crary 2007). Many couples are opting to live together rather than marry simply to avoid the devastating possibility of facing a divorce. While the rite of divorce is every bit as prevalent as the ritual of marriage; divorce is not socially supported in its current adversarial form.

Divorce is considered a isolating event to the ones experiencing it. The separation and pain impact the couple, their children, the extended family and friends. When one spouse reaches the point where he/she cannot live in the marriage one more day, he/she hires an attorney and gears up to protect him/herself, and the fight begins. Even the couples who assert that they want their divorces to be amicable, agreeable and friendly, are at risk to shift somewhere in the process, where it all goes to hell in a hand basket.

We believe that divorce is not a dirty word. Divorce is simply a normal transition in today’s world. It is not the divorce itself, but the emotional charge of fear around it that makes the divorce a potentially traumatic event. What if divorce were handled as reverently as marriage? When people marry, they feel fear too. But the social transition of marriage is strongly supported with a slew of social networks and a lot of positive energy. There is pre-marital counseling, and then parties, gifts, gowns, tuxedos, flowers, food tasting, music and dancing. There are also supportive parents, siblings, clergy and friends surrounding the couple with a collective energy to see them successful in their journey. When couples divorce, what do they get? Two costly, adversarial attorneys and a fight! Everything that follows becomes divisive: the kids, the money, the home, the assets and debts, the families, and the friends. Imagine a divorcing couple investing their divorce dollars into a healthy, positive, socially-supported process. Picture a divorce in a context of peace and forward vision. What might that look like? How might that feel? Who would benefit? Is it even possible? We believe that Collaborative Divorce provides that pathway.

Collaborative Divorce is a concept whose time has come. Society is hungry for a healthier, more respectful alternative to this common life transition; one that is creative rather than destructive. Collaborative Divorce creates a team-context in which couples can, with the help of their team, face their fears constructively, empowering them to design a future that would best serve their own needs and the needs of their children. Research shows that children do best when parents can cooperate on behalf of the child (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2004). When handled poorly, divorce can cause a lifetime of regret, especially when parents and families behave badly during the process. The children, parents’ most precious gift, suffer as a result. Having both been through a series of divorces ourselves, we can attest to the fact that the biggest losers are the children.

Research studies suggest that the suffering of divorce remains with the children throughout their entire lives (Singer, 2007). Children do not have the language or the ability to put into words the devastation and fears they are experiencing. Consequentially, children rarely have their own ‘voice’ when their parents divorce. Children run the gamut of emotions felt by their parents but they have no direction or encouragement to address these emotions. Children have very limited ability to deal with their painful feelings about the divorce and so they are at risk to become symptomatic in numerous ways. Children can become challenged with academic problems, such as poor grades and difficulty concentrating. There can also be behavioral manifestations such as nightmares, withdrawal, fighting with peers, intensified anger, and depression..

Since it is well known that divorce can cause extreme distress, divorcing people need to be well informed about the option for a Collaborative Divorce. The Collaborative Divorce milieu provides a system of multi-dimensional support for the divorcing couple and their family, addressing the emotional, financial and legal aspects of divorce. By having an interdisciplinary team of professionals working together with the couple to support and educate them, this pivotal life event is approached reverently and resourcefully. The team setting provides a climate of safety and hope by utilizing transparency, constructive communication, information and support so the couple can make fully informed decisions about their future.

Collaborative Divorce meets the multi-dimensional needs of the uncoupling couple and their children better than any other current alternative. Uncoupling together, in the spirit of integrity and respect with concern for the family is rapidly becoming the only way people choose to transition into new family systems.

Read more at Collaborative Divorce Professionals of Arizona.