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Can NC Manufacture “Healthy” Marriages

82770193There are many laws and bill in the works that would make it more difficult to get a divorce in various states. The most recent state to make motions to impose stricter divorce laws on their citizens is North Carolina. Senator Austin Allran of Hickory, North Carolina, and Senator Warren Daniel of Morganton, North Carolina are the main supporters of House Bill 518. HB 518 is also known by the monicker of The Healthy Marriage Act, which lends itself to some interesting arguments against the “Healthy” Marriage Act.

HB 518

HB 518 is some very interesting legislation that seems to be working from the wrong side of a healthy marriage. This bill proposes to make a divorcing couple observe a 2 year waiting period before any action to divorce can be taken.

The spouse instigating the divorce must file an intent to divorce with the court, and notify their not-too-soon-to-be-ex of the beginning of their 2 year waiting period. HB 518 graciously makes no demand upon the couple to live separate and apart for the 2 years; and wouldn’t you know, the provision allowing couples to have “isolated incidents of sexual intercourse” in the current divorce law would remain intact in HB 518.

However, the couple must complete a few courses during the waiting period. Firstly, the couple must complete an improving communication skills course, and a conflict-resolution course. These courses have no requirement concerning time of completion, or length of course. Additionally, the couple may complete the courses separately.

If the divorcing couple has children, then there is one more stipulation. The couple must complete a course at least 4 hours long about the impact of divorce on children.

Fostering “Healthy” Marriages?

The “Healthy” Marriage Act basically describes laughable attempts at patching up a marriage. Senators Allran and Daniel could have really benefited from the counsel of the twins from the Parent Trap. But alas, HB 518 is not some hare-brained scheme from a family frolic film; HB 518 is a real piece of legislation officials are currently considering.

I’m sure the intentions behind HB 518 are pure and from the goodness of the Senator’s hearts, but a bill that extends the waiting period so long, and allows cohabitation and even sexual relations is just too much to be believed. If the Senators wanted to make a dent in the high divorce rate and foster healthy marriages, they should put their efforts into the other end of a marriage: the beginning.

No one wants to pose restrictions on love, ideologically. But lets be adults and face the fact that marriage is regulated through bureaucracy and legislation. If we wanted to give starry-eyed lovers the best chance at marriage, we would pass laws imposing things like marriage counseling and conflict resolution courses on prospective newlyweds.

The Grandparent’s Guide to Divorce

83496521Observing family dynamics and becoming a part of the dynamic is one of the best feelings in the world, which is a major perk of marriage. However, when the marriage doesn’t quite work out as expected, extricating yourself from the family dynamic is one of the most painful feelings. After all, you were all one big happy family for so long, so it’s jarring when the family is expected to pick sides and quickly part ways like simple acquaintances.

What if we were to tell you there was a way to stay connected after divorce? Actually, what we really want to tell you is that staying connected after divorce is the best possible thing for any children there may be from the marriage. Everyone involved in the divorce wants what is best for the children, and what is best is remaining connected as (what some might call) an eccentric family.

Grandfathering in New Expectations

Divorce has a knack for dividing families and making their interactions stiff and awkward, but it just takes one person in the family to take command and set the tone of the post-divorce family dynamic. Who better than the grandparents, the sages of the family, to set the tone and foster togetherness?

Well, there isn’t anyone better, because grandparents are just removed enough to avoid being parental, but loving enough to always care.

Parenting is Forever, Just Do it Grandly

Grandparents, just like everyone else in the family, feel confused, wary, and helpless when they watch their children go through a divorce. But grandparents are not so helpless because their wisdom, love, and support are the greatest tools to deal with a divorce. So for all you grandparents out there, don’t remove yourself from the situation; your family needs you.

Grandparenting your adult child doesn’t have to be invasive or controlling, it should be more supportive, loving, and offering. Instead of telling your adult child, “You should …, and then …,” offer ideas or support, like “You look like you need a break/talk/etc., why don’t I …”

There is one more piece of advice we have for grandparents: don’t push away your ex-son/daughter-in-law just because they are divorcing your child. It’s one thing to excommunicate an absent in-law, but another to excommunicate an in-law who is still very much involved in your grandchildren’s lives. If your child feels betrayed by the continued relationship between you and the ex, just calmly explain it’s in support of the grandchildren’s relationships with all the involved relatives (after all, the ex has supplied a set of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins too).

Grandparenting the grandchildren should be as neutral and supportive as possible. The grandparents house should be like a safe haven from all the confusing changes and emotional trauma because the grandparents house hasn’t had to alter at all in the divorce. Continue the usual routines and rituals practiced in the days before the divorce, don’t shy away from speaking about or to both parents, and don’t approach your grandchildren like they are damaged packages you’re uncomfortable around.

As a little side note, don’t allow yourself to be caught up in the role of family spy. If your grandchild comes to you for comfort and a willing ear, don’t take those words of trust and confidence and use them to arm your child with ammo against the ex. If you are on anyone’s side, you are on the grandchildren’s.

Essentially, your role as grandparent is to be the rock, the constant in your child’s and grandchildren’s lives. So don’t let yourself get caught up in pettiness or side-taking, because the family will be looking to you to set the tone of the post-divorce family dynamic.

SPLIT: How Kids Really Feel About Divorce

dv1940064Divorce is an event, a lifestyle, a “thing,” a freak occurrence, and/or a game-changer. No one is exactly sure what divorce is, but there is one thing we do know: It affects families in unique, very personal ways. But the divorce rate stays its course at a cool 50%, and affects more children as the population rises.

One filmmaker decided it was high time the children affected by divorce had complete control of the floor. Ellen Bruno, a San Francisco filmmaker and former international relief worker, raised money on Kickstarter to fund her latest documentary, “Split”. The documentary is scheduled to be released on June 8th later this year, with the  SPLIT website already collecting orders for the DVD.

Kids Run the Show

The SPLIT website displays a startling statistic: “Almost half the children in the U.S. will experience their parent’s separation before the age of 16 — more than any other county in the western world.” This little known fact is possibly what caused Bruno to create a documentary about divorce and include interviews only from children.

The opinions, stories, information, and advice in “Split” comes from children between the ages of 6 years old and 12 years old. In an interview conducted by Vicki Larson, Bruno divulged that she originally scheduled filmed interviews with 18 children. But through the course of several the interviews, Bruno said “it was clear within minutes that it would not be helpful to them to have this conversation, so we stopped.”

And so Bruno’s documentary became the musings and outlet of 12 children between the ages of 6 and 12 who had gone through a divorce.

No Minor Status, No Service

Most (if not all) documentaries include footage of a professional to provide viewers a credible source to learn from. But “Split” is one documentary that is completely “professional” free.

“Kids are wise and intuitive, and when given the space to share their experiences, they speak truth that is clear and profound,” says Bruno. “And kids listen to other kids, often far more attentively than they listen to adults.”

This is a novel, yet completely understandable stance to take when creating a documentary about how divorce affects children. The children who have gone through a divorce may not be certified, and may not have a diploma hanging on the wall of an office, but they certainly are experts of their own familial situation.

In watching the sneak peek videos, there is no need for the camera to swivel to a therapist, sitting behind a desk, explaining what the child means when she says, “It’s like something that you really love, like, breaks, and you can’t put it back together, kind of.”

Survivors

But “Split” is not about doom, gloom, and the end of the world. On the contrary, “Split” is about children showing other children that life can, and does, get better. Bruno wanted this documentary, which is by, from, and for children, to balance the children’s realities with their expectations. Essentially, she wanted the documentary to commiserate and unite the children of divorce while simultaneously showing them the light at the end of the tunnel.

Bruno’s other motivation behind creating this documentary was to provide parents, therapists, and others a raw look at how children process divorce. Certainly, it’s a strange and looming topic for children so small, but it’s not insurmountable.

4 Divorce Mistakes to Avoid

When life-changing events occur, there is a list of udivorce mistakessual suspects who always have advice to spare, and spare said advice they do. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, best friends, grandparents, coworkers; it’s almost as though there isn’t a single person you know who doesn’t have some advice they must share with you. But in the realm of divorce advice, if you listen to anything, listen and learn from these 4 divorce mistakes.

1) Only think about the immediate future. In the throes of a divorce, it’s easy to be distracted by thoughts of the here and now. Things like where you’re going live, how you’re going to pay bills, buy groceries, and survive are heavy in your mind, and that’s understandable.

However, when dividing the assets and property don’t forget about how things are going to weigh on you in the future. After divorce is finalized, there are going to be taxes to be paid, maintenance to be done, and the unforeseeable future to deal with. So when mulling over which assets to retain, think about how much that brand-spanking new car is going to be worth, say, 10 years from now. (Hint: Cars depreciate in value)

2) Don’t study up on marital finances. It’s fairly common in a marriage for one spouse to become the keeper of the finances. But when divorce comes barging in, that dynamic crashes to a halt. Many a wife or husband have been shortchanged in the divorce process because they didn’t know what to ask for.

So word to the wise: Instead of spending all your time trying to figure out what happened, start using some of that time to track down where every single penny of the marital money and assets went. It’ll be hard work, and it’ll take lots of willpower, but you’ll rest easier knowing you won’t get fooled.

3) Lose sight of the big picture. From the moment someone says, “I want a divorce,” life is never the same for either spouse. Due to this stressful time, it’s easy to lose sight of what is really important in life.

We suggest taking a moment early in the process to sit down by yourself and calmly think about what you need to survive on your own after this divorce. During this time, create a list of the things you absolutely will need, and the main things you want out of the divorce. Your list can include anything from “peace of mind,” to “a parenting plan that works for my children and me,” to something as simple as “the house.” Keep this list and during the divorce process refer back to it to make sure you’re making decisions that will get you where you want to go.

4) Let emotions take over. As any good attorney will tell you, divorce should be treated as a business transaction instead of a personal matter. It’s certainly possible to use divorce as punishment for your ex, but for your sake and (if you have any) your children’s sake, don’t do it.

If your emotions are behind hiring combative lawyers, and hiding assets, then it’s time to revisit divorce mistake #3. To avoid falling prey to your emotions, pursue relaxing, expressive activities, like journaling, hiking, going out with friends, or even seeing a therapist.

The Evolution of Child Custody

history of child custodyLittle more than a decade ago, it was estimated that 90% of child custody was settled with the mother gaining full custody of the children. This obvious imbalance in custodial arrangements has made fathers all over America wonder at the horrible injustice and sex discrimination perpetrated by American courts.

But the courts didn’t just wake up one day and decide mothers were better parents; and family court judges are not battling Oedipus complexes. The reason about 90% of mothers received child custody in the past is due to a little thing called the Tender Years Doctrine. But we’ll get to the Tender Years Doctrine in a bit; first we have to make our way through a short history of the evolution of child custody law.

From Ancient Rome to 2013 America

Roman common law, established around 439 B.C., dictated that children of a marriage were the property of the father. This meant if a Roman husband and wife divorced, the children stayed with the father and the mother left.

Jump ahead hundreds of years to English common law, established around 1000 A.D., which upheld the same child custody outline as Roman common law. Simply carry the same basic common laws over into the founding of America, and you have the basis of American custody laws. The law theory pertaining to child custody was that the father was the only suitable parent to teach the children the ways of the world.

However, hundreds of years later during the time of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800′s, the question of what was best for the child became the focus.

Tender Years Doctrine

The Tender Years Doctrine replaced old Roman and English common law child custody arrangements by giving mothers custody of children, until the age of 6. This change was spurred by the Industrial Revolution’s impact on family structure.

The Industrial Revolution caused men to seek jobs away from the remote villages the English people lived in up until that point. The absence of husbands and fathers forced women and mothers to handle the housekeeping and child rearing completely by themselves. When divorces occurred during this time, the courts saw how impossible it would be for fathers to continue to take full custody of the children.

The Tender Years Doctrine stated that children under the age of 6 were too young to leave their mother’s love and care. However, once children grew older, they were of sufficient age and maturity to follow their fathers to industrial towns to work. In America, the Tender Years Doctrine extended the mother’s custody indefinitely, which is the cause of the statistic describing mothers retaining child custody 90% of the time after a divorce.

Do We Have a New Doctrine?

The 1960′s marked the beginning of the divorce spike, which peaked in the 1980′s; but the divorce revolution also sparked a child custody revolution in the U.S. The new child custody doctrine is defined not by the gender of the custodian (a.k.a. the parent granted with child custody), but by the best interests of the child.

So far, this new “best interests” custody doctrine adopted by American family law courts has created the joint custody option. The first joint custody statute was implemented in California in 1979; by 1991, joint custody was written into more than 40 state statutes.

But here’s the catch: Many people are still seeing mothers gaining preferential custody rights in the divorce process. This claim produces many questions, like “Is this still true today?”

Check back with us later this week for the answer to that question.

Do Fathers Have Custody Rights?

fathers rightsParents: Have any of you parents found yourself with your foot shoved far into your mouth? Yeah, so has every other person at one point in time. But trips to the playground seem to coincide with sudden cravings for the taste of feet. The huddle of parents watching their children play is a breeding ground for innocent-enough small talk, until one person makes the assumption that the divorced father just has visitation.

Each person in the group suddenly is interested in the look of their shoes, eyes widen, and lips slowly are pressed into a thin line. If the seemingly-innocent comment was fresh of your lips, your eyes mirror the apology currently flowing from your mouth.

The Truth About Father Custodians

If the father had heard this before, and is aware of the statistics, they probably were not too offended. After all, the 2009 U.S. census reports only about 17.8% of fathers gain full custody rights of the children after a divorce. It was just your luck that you bumped into the 1 father out of 6 who was the custodial parent. But, if you are the father fighting for custody, don’t let past statistics guide your choice to fight the good custodial fight.

Historically, fathers were the preferred custodian of any children in a divorce or marital split (which we discussed at length in a previous blog); but at the turn of the century, mothers became the championed custodial parents. Ever since the switch in child custody doctrines (read the blog and you’ll understand), the number of custodial mothers have all but stomped out the number of custodial fathers.

In custody battles, fathers may dejectedly say or think, “What’s the point of fighting for custody? The courts never favor the father.” But we are here to say, “Buck up, soldier. These days, fathers have just as many rights to custody as mothers.”

Fighting the Good Fight

We don’t normally endorse any kind of animosity or battling, but when a child’s true best interests are at stake, we fully support fighting the good fight. And besides, single fatherhood is quickly gaining momentum in American society.

In 1993, Indiana became the first American state to pass a child custody law in favor of joint parenting plans. Since then, the other U.S. states have passed similar custody laws championing joint parenting plans. As a result, the amount of single fathers grew by 37.9 percent between the years of 1990 and 2000; the rate continued to increase by 27.3% between the years of 2000 and 2010.

The Pen is Mightier

Although the world we live in might seem to enjoy horrific wars, the pen really is mightier than the sword; this is true especially during a custody battle. Nowadays, courts are focusing more on the best interests of the child, instead of the genders of the parents and child involved.

The courts generally consider the best interests of the child to be factors like:

  • maintaining the same standard of living

  • living in a stable, familiar environment

  • living with the parent who cared and provided for the child on a daily basis

If the father provide examples of all the factors above (and the other state-specific requirements), then he has a good chance of gaining custody. However, don’t take our word as divorce law. If you’re embroiled in a heated custody battle, you should probably seek legal guidance.

We try our best to be helpful and informative at MyDivorceDocuments.com, but we can’t cover everything without hearing from you. If you have a question or comment, let us know in the comment box below. We’ll do our best to get you the best information available.

Post-Divorce Kid-Friendly Moving Tips

Divorce might as well be a synonym of the word “change,” because life is the never the same after divorce enters the picture. Conversations with your spouse aren’t the same after divorce is discussed, family outings don’t have the same cheery feel, and the wedding ring on your finger feels just a little too cold. But those feelings are nothing compared to the changes your family will have to face in the months and years to come.

One of the biggest changes for children is the new living arrangement. Undoubtedly, someone is moving out of the family home, which is stressful for children. But when the entire family is moving out of the family home, and moving to different places, the children are left reeling.

Walk in Their Size 4′s

A study published by the University of Virginia looked into the relationship between the frequency at which a person moved during childhood and the person’s life satisfaction as an adult. In 1994, the researchers interviewed 7,108 Americans between the ages 20 and 75 years-old about their childhood moves,personality types, and life satisfaction.

The researchers found people who moved less during childhood reported having more extroverted personalities and a higher satisfaction in life. People who moved more during childhood reported being more introverted and feeling less satisfaction in life.

But let’s take a little reality check: This study did not observe the children during childhood moves, and only asked participants to vaguely describe their life satisfaction. Additionally, there is no reported information about the participant’s upbringing or other childhood experiences.

Now Guide Their Size 4′s

Here’s the point we want to make: Divorce and the task of moving can be disastrous for a child, but don’t despair that you child will become a delinquent just because the family is moving. Just like everything else in life, there are good ways to handle a situation and not so productive or positive ways to handle a situation.

Many a parent is probably throwing their arms up in indignation, yelling “What else am I doing wrong now?!” Just bear with us, we are not trying to tell you that moving will cause your child irreparable damage. We are just saying it might be prudent to check in with your child about their feelings about moving; and by “might be” we mean “it is.”

Make Their Moving Frown Upside-Down

Here are a few tips to make moving less of a traumatic incident and more of an exciting event.

#1: Keep the communication lines free and clear. Communication is the most important element in a healthy relationship, and it is the best way to make sure your child have everything they need to be happy and healthy.  Take time out of each day to talk to your child about their take on moving. Let them speak freely about the anger, fear, excitement, or anxiety they feel, and try to leave your stress out of this moment.

Moving for divorcing parents is more of a necessity, and maybe even a welcome change. Just recognize moving does not mean the same things to your child, and let them be able to confide that in you without scolding or pressure to change their feelings.

#2: Inclusion is better than dictation. The family dynamic has changed, and now the physical family make-up is changing. For your, child this is an apocalypse; so seize the moment to create a new and improved family dynamic and make-up.

If the family used to be run just by mom and pop, then make this the the beginning of the era of inclusion. Let the kids have a say in where they live, how their room looks, and how to decorate the new house. It will reassure them the family is still theirs to be a part of.

#3: Give them closure. The physical act of moving is as simple as putting things in boxes and trucks, and transporting them to the new house. But moving involves memories, sentimentality, and the disruption of normalcy. For your children, they are leaving everything they know in the world for a foreign land.

To make the move more conclusive, we suggest these 2 things: 1) Wait to move until the end of the school year. Not only would the mid-year move affect their grades, but getting to know a new neighborhood, teacher, friends, and life style would be too much to handle at once. 2) Have a little farewell party or tour. Take you child to visit their old favorite places and friends. This will give the child a positive end to the move, and maybe even excite them for the new places and people they’ll love.

Divorce Talk: Telling the Kids

If children understand and identify with anything, they understand and identify with the fictional characters in their favorite movies and books. Northbrook psychologist Dr. Leigh Weisz, who specializes in children’s issues, understands this better than anyone. Weisz also understands what children need to hear, and how they need to hear about their parent’s divorce, which is why she wrote “Kara Kangaroo’s Candy,” a children’s book about divorce.

From One Kangaroo to Another

From the moment the relationship between the parents starts to become strained, to the moment the parents utter the word “divorce,” the children intuitively sense there is trouble in paradise. Similar to how animals have an innate sense of direction, children have a sensitive barometer of the emotional climate in a room.

This superpower all children have is one of the innovative elements discussed in “Kara Kangaroo’s Candy.” In fact, the book was written because Weisz could not find the perfect book to address divorce for her office. “Kara Kangaroo’s Candy” was written to help children cope with divorce, and for parents to understand how to approach the topic with their children.

Tips to Talking with Your Child

An article on PyschologyToday.com put some practical research to an even more practical purpose. Researchers interviewed children individually at length about their parent’s divorce, and the children’s responses have been published to provide parents with divorce pointers. However, we won’t completely ignore Weisz’s helpful info in this list, so don’t be surprise if you see a mix of both source’s advice.

Tip #1: Obtain some good vibrations. Take into account that your child is picking up signals like a metal detector on a volcanic island. Also take into account that although your child is, well, a child, their instincts kick into high gear to fix problems that are being ignored in the family. So do yourself a favor and be honest with yourself and to your child during this difficult time. Also do not forget to emphasize, reiterate, repeat, and go over again the fact that the divorce is not the child’s responsibility or fault.

Tip #2: Plan the family pow-wow. As it turns out, children vividly remember when they were told of the divorce, and they remember it forever. It’s suggested to actually give some thought, if not plan detail for detail, where and how you will deliver the news. Compose yourself for the task so your children don’t forever remember their parents blurting out through sobs they are filing for divorce.

Tip #3: Don’t direct the flow of feelings. As a parent it’s hard not to process your child’s feelings for them; like when they fall off their bike and run to you with a scared, confused expression on their face, the common response from you is, “Oh, that scared you, didn’t it?”

When having the divorce talk, do not try to help them out with their feelings as if divorce is a bike fall. Let your child tell you how they feel, and don’t try to fix the feeling just yet; this is something they will have to heal for themselves over time, and no help from you will make it any easier. Also, you cannot know how the child is feeling until they pin it down and tell you. By trying to paint them as sad or hurt, when they are just shocked, but understanding, it will make it harder for them to honestly face their feelings with you later.

As I’m sure you are aware, there are mounds of other tips about breaking the big news; some of these advice tidbits are sought out and some are rather forced, but we hope these were both palatable and helpful.

If you’ve been there and done that, and want to share what worked for you, feel free to share your experience below.

Fuzz Therapy for Divorce Healing

Not that anyone really needs a reminder of how much divorce impacts children, but it does. A lot. Even if you and your spouse have done everything to make the divorce easier on your child, divorce will have an impact on them in some way for some time. Thankfully there are ways to make it less awful, namely something I like to call Fuzz Therapy (as coined by the immortal Calvin and Hobbes cartoon).

Rosalind Sedacca, a Huffington Post regular, recently published an article about the healing relationship animals and humans tend to have, and how that relationship can help children cope with divorce. As if we needed another reason to love animals.

More Reasons to Love Animals

Not that animals can replace parents or human interactions, but animals provide a strange emotional stability for humans, even (or especially?) for small humans. One of the most distressing things for a child during the divorce process is no longer sleeping in the house with both parents. When it was one family in one house, the home was an impenetrable fortress; now that it’s sort-of one family in two houses, the home(s) is(are) vulnerable to intruders and the elements.

In Sedacca’s article, she cited the following 6 benefits an animal provides to a grieving child: Unconditional love, a confidant, security, bridge to adults, stress reduction, and a best friend.

However, these 6 elements can actually be lumped into 3 more succinct elements.

3 Reasons to Bring in Animal Backup

#1: An animal provides unconditional love, which is an umbrella for the best friend and confidant elements of friendship. If you are skeptical of that statement, just observe a child and a person walking a dog interact on the street. The child is drawn to the dog and wants nothing more than to pet it and be bosom buddies; this is because the animals will always love, play, and pay attention to the child (it also helps that the dog can’t tattle on the child).

#2: Pets love routines, pet love seeing their owner come home everyday, and pets love to be pet for hours at a time. At the same time, this enthusiasm for routine and companionship is comforting and healing to people big and small. A pet, and the routine they inadvertently create, shapes the environment into a secure home. Petting an animal is also scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety (more on than later).

#3: We’re not exactly sure what “Bridge to adults” means, but here’s our best crack at it: Divorce wrenches the family structure, thus confusing and worrying the child about the future of their family. Introducing a pet into the family structure might act like glue, binding and bonding the family to something new, in spite of the divorce.

Fuzz Therapy, It’s a Real Thing

Animal therapy has been part of the medical practice for about 150 years, and can be attributed to Florence Nightingale‘s influence. However, in 1980, the medical community thought it was time to make it an official medical practice, with research to back it up.

Humans and animals make each other healthy and happy, as discussed in an NPR segment that aired on March 5, 2013. Heart attack patients who own a pet lived longer than those without a pet. Horse-riding lessons are helping an autistic 9-year-old boy further develop his speech, social, and listening skills. Many hospitals now have animal ambassador programs, like UCLA’s People-Animal Connection (PAC), which has been running since 1994.

The connection formed between animal and owner is healing, comforting, and inspiring. Also, interacting with an animal (like petting an animal) increases oxytocin (the hormone that makes people feel happy, relaxed, and trusting) and reduces stress.

We know owning a dog isn’t always feasible, but even for busy apartment-dwellers, you can always adopt a cat or buy a hamster. In case you were wondering, we’re on the child’s side when they beg, “Please, please, please can we get a pet?!” And we put up a good argument too.

Collaborative Divorce: Stuck Between Contested and Uncontested

78630844The availability of the collaborative divorce process is gaining steam as more states sign it into law. A less adversarial form of divorce, collaborative divorce still allows the couple to make all separation agreements without sitting, or heatedly standing, in a courtroom.

Although uncontested divorce is the most ideal case in which spouses can settle things peacefully on their own, a collaborative agreement involving two lawyers keeps the situation out of any court drama that often ensues during contested cases. Thankfully, a new collaborative divorce law was just passed in Washington, solidly making available a more peaceful divorce experience for all involved.

Terminology Lesson

Just so we’re all on the same page, here are definitions of most kinds of divorce:

Uncontested Divorce: A divorce in which the couple agrees on all allocations of marital property, child custody, child support, and/or alimony. Uncontested divorce essentially eliminats the need for lawyers or a judge in court. An uncontested divorce usually gives a no-fault grounds for divorce.

Contested Divorce: The opposite of uncontested, contested divorce means the couple cannot make a settlement agreement on their own due to disputes. Lawyers and a judge are needed to make the settlement for them. The process is longer and more expensive.

Mediated Divorce: A divorce where the couple hires a mediator, who is usually a divorce attorney trained in mediation, to help them settle allocations agreeably.

Collaborative Divorce: Similar to mediated divorce, except the couple hires two lawyers, one for each spouse, to help them come to an agreement and draft the divorce settlement.

Good News for Washington

Despite its effectiveness, the collaborative divorce option is only enacted in a few U.S. states. One state that just made it available and signed it into law is Washington, to the joy of many supporters.

Called the Uniform Collaborative Law Act, it enables couples to utilize mental health professionals and child specialists as well as lawyers to make the out-of-court option run even smoother. Child therapist Kristin Little remarks, “You’re helping people to be good parents through the divorce, so you’re actually preventing a lot of the damage that can occur during the divorce.”

Indeed, going through divorce is especially hard on children, who tend to be caught in the eye of the storm. “I have been doing family law litigation 25 years and court is no place for families,” says Washington based lawyer, Cynthia First. When disputes need to be resolved themselves, leaving them out of the court’s hands means less hassle and more peace.

Amicable Splitting

The best way to settle any conflict or disagreement is through reasonable compromise and speedy resolution. That kind of attitude and problem-solving leads to feelings of goodwill for the ex-spouse and life after divorce. Even though spouses often have serious disagreements over what will happen to their life’s possessions during divorce, they can find a way to temper them independently through options like collaborative divorce. The collaborative divorce process frees up more time and resources for the divorcee to focus on other things, like moving on.