In a Collaborative Divorce, Everyone is Heard
Divorce doesn’t have to be a surprise or a never-ending fight. You may not believe it, but there is such a thing as a successful, gentler divorce where everyone feels heard and supported.
That’s the goal of Collaborative Divorce Professionals of West Michigan. This team of Attorneys, Divorce Coaches, Financial Specialists, and Child Specialists all work together for a family, not just for a paycheck.
If you feel like divorce is the only option for you and your spouse, and you want to preserve what you can of your family for yourself and your children, you owe it to your family to look into the collaborative divorce process.
With the Collaborative Divorce Team, you can know that everyone is on your side and they are all working for the best solution for your family. Having this whole team behind you can make you feel relief during what is a completely life-changing event.
You can see some of the faces behind Collaborative Divorce Professionals of West Michigan here.
Several people are committed to each case, each bringing their own expertise. And each person on the collaborative team works together to make sure everyone wins.
“Every team in West Michigan has a Divorce Coach and 2 attorneys.” explains Collaborative Attorney Randall Velzen.
“The next most common person would be a Financial Specialist. Sometimes we use 2 coaches, so a coach is aligned with each party. And then we also have a Child Specialist if there’s a need for some more individualized issues regarding minor children.”
Each member of the collaborative team has a special role whether it is to help the family’s financial future or to help the children understand the new family structure.
Everyone knows that a divorce means a separation. But did you know that there are different kinds of divorce? Not every divorce can follow the same process, and that’s one reason why Collaborative Divorce Professionals can produce a better outcome than a traditional divorce.
In a collaborative divorce, the couple gets to do the real work. But that’s because they are they ones that will live with the results!
Collaborative Attorney Susan Keener says that in a traditional divorce, the judge has authority to make decisions about your life.
But what one judge decides may not be the same as another. In the collaborative process, you’ve already made the decisions and the judge trusts those agreements in most situations.
“We believe the parents who are in the situation probably know best what their family needs, and we really value them crafting their own agreement,” says Keener.
Couples that sit down for the collaborative process get to help decide their future, they don’t have to depend on the whim of a judge to make the decisions, and they have a team of neutral experts advising them.
Couples going through divorce may feel lost or overwhelmed about the process. They may feel like one person gets to make the decisions and they are just at the mercy of the lawyer or the courts. But the Collaborative Divorce process starts with agreement.
Once each spouse has retained a collaboratively-trained attorney and have agreed to use the Collaborative Process, they sign a contract called a participation agreement, promising to to commit to the process and resolve their disputes outside of court.
Both attorneys, as well as other members of the team, also sign the participation agreement.
Then each member of the team does their part – including the couple! Bi-weekly meetings with as many team members are necessary get everyone in the room talking together. Some couples reach an agreement in only a few meetings; some couples take more time. But he solution is tailor-made for the family.
Once the agreement is made, a judge knows the couple has already put in the time and effort. The couple may not even have to appear in court.
Collaborative Divorce Professionals work with the whole family – not just the couple divorcing. They make sure that every person is a part of the process. That’s because divorce isn’t just about dividing assets, but about dividing whole lives – originally built in love.
There can be real hurt and pain in the process and children can feel confused and alone. Collaborative Divorce’s Divorce Coaches can guide families through. And when everyone feels heard and shows respect, everyone can feel like they accomplished something.
Craig DeWitt, a Divorce Coach with Collaborative Divorce Professionals, assures couples going through the process of divorce.
“The collaborative process is based on the belief that families can get through divorce in a more emotionally healthy way,” he says.
Tips for Lessening the Financial and Emotional Impact of a Divorce
Everyone knows a divorce is expensive – lawyers fees, missed work, court appearances, and everything just adds up doesn’t it? And with a Collaborative Divorce, you have a whole team of people working – wouldn’t that mean it’s just that much more expensive?
That’s not true says Collaborative Attorney, Erica Wikander.
“…When you’re looking at averages, the traditional average collaborative case should be relatively less expensive than a litigated case,” explains Erica
The secret is that the whole collaborative team is well, collaborating! Working together and openly means that everyone knows all the information and no work is being repeated.
The worst part of the divorce may be telling the kids. That announcement is a life changer and it will stay with the kids forever. But there are ways to tell the kids about an impending divorce in a gentle, helpful way.
Margaret Allen, an attorney who represents children in neglect and delinquency cases and difficult divorces, recommends something almost easy: “Keep it simple.”
By design, the Collaborative Process means people are working together and communicating. This includes children! They feel like they are a part of the process, that they are heard, and that they won’t be forgotten.
Ideally, parents tell the children together at a time when they can ask questions. The whole family gets to write their divorce story together.
To further help families in the divorce process, Collaborative Divorce professionals have Child Specialists to help advocate for the youngest members of the family.
It can often help children to talk to a trusted adult that’s not taking any “side” in the situation.
These Resources are Here for YOU
We hope these resources can help you if you are facing a divorce. Every divorce is different, but the Collaborative Divorce team aims to make every one of those divorces as gentle as possible.