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New Books about Collaborative Divorce

People considering divorce--and their friends and families--now have a new source of important information about professional help options during divorce--two books that are essential reading for anyone contemplating divorce or breakup of a nonmarital partnership.  It's been said by a very respected California appellate court judge, Donald King, that "family law court is where they shoot the survivors." Authors Peggy Thompson, a clinical psychologist and collaborative divorce coach, and Pauline Tesler, a collaborative family lawyer (and author of this blog posting),  in their new book, Collaborative Divorce: The Revolutionary New Way to Restructure Your Family, Resolve Legal Issues, and Move On With Your Life, place divorce in its historical, psychological, and sociological context so that couples will have a better understanding of the magnetic pull that negative emotion exerts when intimate relationships come to an end. They explain how couples can make use of interdisciplinary collaborative divorce teams for a more civilized and respectful process and more lasting, creative outcomes to divorce-related challenges.

Because divorce is not just a legal event, but a complex and normal human transition (one that affects nearly half of all couples who marry), it is understandable that lawyers and judges alone cannot provide the full range of professional perspectives and services that divorcing partners and their children need as families break down and restructure after divorce.  Tesler and Thompson show how interdisciplinary teams of specially trained lawyers, mental health coaches, child development specialists, and financial consultants are working with couples all over North America and Europe to provide sophisticated advice and counsel that pave the way to a civilized, respectful, self-determined out-of-court resolution.

In Collaborative Divorce, law is only one strand of information provided to the divorcing partners, rather than a restriction on creative problem-solving, as it can be in conventional divorces.  Collaborative lawyers help their clients identify their own priorities and concerns, and help them expand the range of options that might meet those concerns, in a structured process that emphasizes orderly and constructive problem-solving in direct face-to-face negotiations that include both partners and both lawyers.  Minneapolis lawyers Ron Ousky and Stu Webb, in their book The Collaborative Way to Divorce, focus on the role of collaborative lawyers, one of the three professions involved in interdisciplinary collaborative divorce practice.

While it is true that most traditional divorce cases ultimately result in a settlement, the road to settlement can be emotionally and financially draining as lawyers prepare for litigated motions and trials.  The settlements themselves often are hashed out literally or figuratively on the courthouse steps, with buyer's and seller's remorse common the next morning.  Efforts to set aside or modify these settlements are common, because they represent a papering-over of differences rather than a real resolution of them.

In collaborative divorce, both process and outcome are entirely different because collaborative divorces take place entirely outside the court system, except for the processing of the final divorce agreement and related papers.  Collaborative divorce aims at full exploration of a couple's
differences in a constructive spirit aimed at developing maximum consensus and deep, lasting resolution.  Where poor communications or strong emotions interfere with  problem-solving efforts, collaborative divorce coaches provide focused assistance so that the couple can return to legal negotiations in a productive way.  Where better understanding of family finances or development of options that will maximize financial resources are needed, the collaborative financial consultant provides those perspectives.  The collaborative child specialist helps children understand the divorce process, and helps them express their needs and concerns so that they can be heard.  The collaborative lawyers guide the negotiations and help manage conflict so that constructive solutions can be considered.  No agreements are signed until both partners are satisfied with the settlement plan.  These settlements last because they reflect a real resolution of differences. 

When couples divorce this way, they emerge from the divorce process with enhanced skills and understandings, so that they can co-parent their children after the divorce as effectively as possible.  Recovery from the trauma of divorce tends to be quicker, because the focus is on the future, not on the past--and on solutions, not on blame.

Judith Wallerstein, Ph.D., author of The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, calls Collaborative Divorce "A great step forward.   This book will enable spouses to bypass the truly awful, adversarial process of the courts at the time of the breakup."  Harvard Law School professor Robert Mnookin, author of  Beyond Winning, says, "This practical book should be assigned reading for every divorcing spouse.  It describes the advantages of a revolutionary idea whose time has come. . ."  Debbie Ford, author of Spiritual Divorce, calls Collaborative Divorce a "brilliant achievement and major contribution" and "a deeply intelligent book."   Psychiatrist and peace activist Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., calls Collaborative Divorce "truly a new and better way to end a marriage or any intimate partnership."  And psychiatrist Thomas Lewis, M.D. calls Collaborative Divorce  "a brave and visionary work" and "one of the rare books with a vital lesson, powerfully taught, that will make the world a better place."

Read excerpts from Collaborative  Divorce, or buy the book, at


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