Other than perhaps the death of a parent, divorce is often the single most traumatic event in a child's life. In America 60% of all marriages end in divorce and a third of those divorces involve bitter conflict. One million children in our country are involved in divorce each year. These children are twice as likely as children from intact homes to develop behavior problems, psychiatric illness and addictions. Children of divorce are 50% more likely to divorce than children from intact homes, perpetuating the cycle and driving statistics up each year.
As typically practiced in America, divorce rips asunder the very foundation of a child's world. It shatters the family structure, destroys communication between the parents, and irrevocably changes the child's relationship with each parent. Children suffer not only their own fears and misery over the loss of the family but, too often, are used as pawns by one parent to hurt the other. Out of anger or emotional need, one parent may seek to monopolize the child's time and affection to the exclusion of the other parent. There are no winners in a divorce. Everyone loses, but the children lose most of all.
Divorce professionals and researchers alike have concluded that how a couple conducts themselves during a divorce has far greater impact on their children than the separation itself. Weary of acrimonious divorce battles that dragged on in court and the expense and emotional damage they cause, attorneys and clients sought a more constructive way of divorcing. The sad reality is that divorce involves far too many complex personal and family issues to be adequately addressed and appropriately resolved by an already overwhelmed judiciary. People wanted to maintain control over their lives, not have decisions that would have such a major impact on their future dictated by an uninvested third party through the courts.
Collaborative Practice (also called Collaborative Law and Collaborative Divorce) became the answer. Founded in 1990 by Minnesota attorney Stuart G. Webb, collaborative practice focuses on the fact that divorce is not just a painful ending but can also be a new beginning. Stressing cooperation over confrontation and resolution over revenge, collaborative divorce is quickly transforming how couples dissolve their marriages, divide their assets, and reinvent their post-divorce parenting relationships. "Collaborative practice promotes respect, places the needs of the children first and keeps control of the process with the spouses," explains the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) website (www.CollaborativePractice.com).
An alternative to traditional litigious divorce and child custody proceedings, collaborative law is a commitment to a principled, negotiated settlement that focuses on client empowerment. It harnesses the problem-solving skills of both attorneys and their clients to arrive at creative settlements that address the needs of each parent and their children without the threat or use of court action. The collaborative law method provides the tools, resources, and professional assistance in a specialized and structured framework to achieve effective outcomes for families in transition. Interest in collaborative law is growing and is now practiced in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Switzerland.