A civilized divorce is really what I believe we would all hope for. A civilized divorce is one where both parties treat each other with dignity and respect throughout the process.
They understand that even though their relationship may be ending as husband and wife, there are benefits to their children in having an effective, healthy co-parenting relationship. Spouses who handle the divorce process with that dignity and respect get to an effective co-parenting relationship more quickly than those who go through a more acrimonious and litigious divorce. A civilized divorce can be handled through the traditional litigation process, mediation, or through the collaborative divorce process.
A civilized divorce is not the same as a collaborative divorce.
A collaborative divorce goes under the specific statutory model for collaborative divorce. You have to meet certain requirements for it to be classified as a collaborative divorce.
There are cases where litigation is really the only viable option. Often this occurs because there are mental health or addiction issues that prevent one or both parties from being able to come to an amicable resolution. Our courts are there to help those families resolve those issues through the litigation process.
From a collaborative standpoint, one of the main reasons that people will choose a collaborative divorce is for the privacy. You absolutely lose that privacy in the litigation process. For some people that is the biggest motivating factor. That also means that collaborative cases can be hard. We don’t sit around and sing “Kumbaya”. In the end, we’re trying to come to a mutually agreeable resolution. We try to be more civilized, but that doesn’t mean that they are “easy” divorces.
In cases where clients don’t want to do the full collaborative process, but they have questions or need guidance on putting together their parenting plan, we can still send them to those same collaboratively trained mental health professionals to help them put together a plan that works best for their family. We can still bring in financial advisors to help look at the assets of the community estate and the financial needs of each parent and the children to create the best solution for that family. And the other piece of a civilized divorce is having lawyers involved in the divorce who can work well with each other so that the lawyers do not become part of the problem.
What would cause a divorce to go from civilized to uncivilized?
Sometimes, it is the lawyers involved. Sometimes, it is that one or both spouses have a need to prove something. If one spouse has proven to be untrustworthy, that lack of trust can cause the other spouse to think that litigation is their only option. My biggest concern in those cases is that litigation doesn’t necessarily help the trust factor, and a case in litigation that does formal discovery doesn’t necessarily uncover all of the untruths that someone thinks their spouse is speaking or doing.
I believe that part of my role as the divorce attorney is to do my best to keep them “civilized.” Some lawyers may have tried to coin that term as a way that they handle their divorce cases. To me, it’s the old-fashioned amicable agreed divorce. Now, some of those take more work than others. But yes, I believe a civilized divorce is absolutely possible, and a lot of that depends on which lawyers the parties hire, how healthy each of the parties is, and each party’s ability to sit down and come to a reasonable solution.