Literally hundreds of thousands of people get married every year - most are happy when they decide to wed, and they marry convinced they are going to be happier. Many married couples have children and enjoy all that goes into creating a stable home and happy family.
And then, after a while, they are not always so happy. Misunderstandings set in. The person they wake up to is not the person they imagined themselves attached to.
Getting uncoupled is no fun. Plans change. Dreams die. Uncertainty looms. Identities must change. But these changes can and are dealt with through the process of divorce.
Why is the process of marriage, kids and divorce so common? Year after year, the U.S. divorce rate hovers around the 50% mark. Maybe because (despite the high divorce rate) most people still expect to have stability in their primary relationships. Maybe because most of them want to be part of a family — maybe the family they never had.
All across America, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent on divorces; and this is just the simple ones. Major financial resources are devoted to untangling conflicts the family is engaged in — money that could have been spent to educate children, or start new lives.
Typically, divorce results in families being torn apart - and the children are invariably the innocent bystanders. The effects on children in high-conflict divorce cases range from life-long abandonment issues, to assuming that intimate relationships are temporary.
Many people accept as "received wisdom" that people going through divorce are - and must be - angry and hostile. They point to the visible ugliness seen in court cases (and lawyers' offices) as proof. However, divorcing parents do not have to be angry; they should actually make their children’s well-being their primary focus. With some effort and guidance, divorcing parents can become excellent co-parents and help their children survive and thrive.
Divorce is a loss, and we all experience loss as an event outside our comfort zone and outside our more usual coping mechanisms. But it is not a "get out of jail free" card for acting out our worst impulses. And quietly, outside the view of the courts and their neighbors, many divorcing couples avoid divorce court — and behave well.
This group has been "off the radar" of the legal profession to a large degree, but they exist. They are off the radar because they are able to agree on what’s best for their family, and thereby usually avoid lawyers and courts. They get past their anger, and some even deliberately choose to learn to accept the reality that any relationship problems take both partners to create, and both partners to maintain. Still more are determined not to harm their children, no matter how much they may be disillusioned about one another.
Today, more than ever, there are many alternatives for couples who want to resolve their divorce issues outside of court. The best way to do this is using "ADR" - "Alternative Dispute Resolution." This means staying outside the courtroom, at a minimum. For some couples, that might mean using the California Summary Dissolution process. (This is only available for couples with short marriages no kids and no real property).
For others, it could be mediation, which is great for couples that are likely to come to a full agreement on how they want their family and financial matters to look after a divorce, but need expert help with the "how." But for many couples who are truly able to work together but need help with the aspects of the family reorganization - financial, emotional, and legal, the "Collaborative Divorce" model might be the best fit.
Recently, these divorce models have received increased media courage, thanks to a few brave souls who were willing to go public with their success stories. You will hear more and more about it in the coming years. Most family law Judges are enthusiastic about it, and some courts are sending letters recommending couples seek "ADR" and mentioning Collaborative Practice as one option.
What's the bottom line? Couples need to know that their divorce from each other doesn't mean they will end up in an ugly court battle, or that they must divorce their kids. These new, alternative models work well for many families, and for all the professionals who have watched in horror as the legal system of adversarial combat left no survivors.