COOPERATIVE DIVORCE: Money spent on getting mad or getting even is money wasted.

By Irving H. Zaroff, JD LMFT and Dana Schutz, MA LMFT

Money spent on getting mad or getting even is money wasted
~Richard Wagner

What is a Cooperative Divorce? Clearly this appears to be an oxymoron. How can pulling apart be described as "cooperative?" The answer lies in an understanding of both the history of divorce and its emotional components. While the legal system deals with the physical and financial separation, it does not provide skill sets for the psychological and emotional separation. A cooperative divorce tends to all of these factors. Remove the courtroom, the judge, and the lawyer-warriors, and you find "facilitators" to help husband/father and wife/mother find their own best solutions in a cooperative mediation.

Mediation tends to not only the divorce results, but also to the impact of the divorce process itself. Litigation is an adversarial process and often triggers hostile and damaging responses to an already fragile system. By establishing a creative and harmonious environment conflict can be transformed into cooperative resolution. Essentially, a cooperative divorce was conceived as a mediation alternative to court battles.

Mediation is primarily for couples who desire to minimize the costs of divorce, provide a healthy, supportive environment for their children, and create a pragmatic divorce agreement that will be sustained over time. Among the various professionals providing mediation services, one of the most interesting mediation approaches is pairing two mediators - a family therapist mediator and a lawyer mediator - who work as a team to address all the aspects that arise in divorce - especially when children are involved. When outside experts are needed, they are employed by both parties, not as advocates for either, but as sources of information to make better decisions while reducing the costs (of have two experts for everything).

The divorce process can be scary and overwhelming for some. Trust and confidence in the professionals you engage is important. Mediation allows you to come to decisions without ever going to court, putting the power in the hands of a third party, or spending your estate in a battle. A mediated divorce may help you build new bridges, especially as parents, rather than burning bridges from hurt, anger and sorrow that would be left untended.

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