I was sitting with a friend outside a coffee shop last week, kicking around some ideas on how to increase public awareness of the collaborative divorce process. We were also commiserating over our frustrations that few people, lawyers included, know about the process. My colleague made a great point. He said, “Think about this. A customer walks out the door of this coffee shop into the parking lot. A car is driving through the parking lot and hits the customer. The law provides a system by which these two people can resolve whatever differences they might have in a court of law. And this is the same method the law has chosen as the default process for couples who choose to divorce. Isn’t that crazy?”
I thought about that for a moment. In the case where a driver strikes a pedestrian with a car, the law provides a way to resolve those differences. It assumes these people really don’t know each other and, really don’t want to know each other. The law further assumes these people know nothing about each other and need to find out quite a bit about each other. It is also assumed these parties will not cooperate in any way with each other. The law further assumes the very real possibility that someone will walk away with nothing or someone will be required to pay everything. In short, the law provides a system that assumes a lack of cooperation, affixes blame, and routinely produces “all or nothing” results.
When you put it like that, it really IS crazy.
It is crazy when you consider that parties to a divorce know each other. It is crazy when you consider the parties have, in most cases, built a life together. It’s particularly crazy when you recognize they’ve chosen to bring children into the world together. It is surely crazy to use such a system to resolve a dispute where the law ignores fault or blame in virtually every case. Then, there is the insanity of putting divorcing couples in a system designed to deal with all or nothing outcomes when they must co-parent for years to come! And don’t forget that the law of divorce virtually never awards all of anything to one spouse and absolutely nothing to the other.
Who would choose such a system for divorce? There are several reasons. People who don’t know there is any other way. People who consult with divorce-related experts who do not know there is any other way. People who rely on the advice of divorce experts who choose not to inform clients there is another way. People who are advised to avoid any other alternative because their expert either won’t learn another way or won’t make as much money using another method.
Collaborative divorce is one legislatively authorized process for divorce, as is divorce litigation. If you or someone you know are considering divorce, I invite you to learn more about collaborative divorce from a trained professional who can explain the concept and process of collaborative divorce. You can sit down with an expert who will answer all of your questions and help you understand everything you need to know to choose the process that is right for you and your family.
You’ve heard this before – only it’s not screaming in your ear. Stop the insanity.
Kurt Chacon is a CDC certified divorce coach in north Dallas and a collaborative divorce attorney. He is a member of Denton County Collaborative Professionals, Collaborative Divorce Texas, and can be reached at www.divorcedifferently.org and on Facebook at divorcedifferently.