Guest Post by Rona Hitlin-Mason, LPC


The Washington Post had an article about Prince Harry’s trip to the US to promote the Invictus Games for wounded warriors. The article noted that when the Prince returned from Afghanistan with wounded soldiers he dedicated himself to helping them “lead healthy and dignified lives after service.”  As I read the article, I wondered if any of the soldiers at the time they were wounded believed that they could have “healthy and dignified” lives again. If told, would they think their suffering was being dismissed or that the years of pain, rehab, and treatment were being minimized? Those are the same questions I ask about families going through divorce – how can they begin to see that there is a healthy and dignified family life at the other end of the journey, and what can best support them through that journey?


I have worked with people going through divorce for over 20 years. I help couples make the decision whether or not to separate. I work to help parents prepare and cushion their children through the divorce process, and I sit with people as they go through the emotional pain and loss of their marriage.


Although I can assist with the emotional impact and try to help them understand there will be a new, healthy normal at the end of the journey, the legal process often overtakes people’s best intentions to work together for the “sake of the children,” to try to put anger, hurt and betrayal aside and to not have “The War of The Roses” divorce.  The legal system is supposed to advocate for each partner, getting each the best deal possible. Unfortunately, this does not usually mean the best deal for the family and often leaves more damage and pain in its wake.


There is another way. Collaborative Divorce is an alternative method to resolve the disputes and insure a healthier and more dignified divorce process. The Collaborative Process takes place outside of court and allows divorcing couples the opportunity to separate and divorce respectfully; retain dignity through open, cooperative, and respectful negotiations; protect their children from the impact of divorce; avoid the trauma of court; make their own decisions rather than have a judge decide; and co-parent more effectively and remain as friendly as possible.


Collaborative Divorce includes a team of professionals, including attorneys, mental health professionals, child specialists and financial expert—all of whom are specifically trained in the collaborative process. All professionals work together to help the couple negotiate creative solutions that facilitate deep and durable legal, financial and emotional outcomes that both spouses can agree to and live with. Each partner retains his and her own attorney. The couple is seen as the experts in making decisions for their own future. Spouses make a voluntary commitment not to go to court in order to settle the dispute. Although the process is voluntary, the commitment to non-litigation is irrevocable. If either party wishes to move their dispute to litigation, the team dissolves and both parties will have to seek new representation. The team helps each partner to articulate his/her concerns, fears, hopes, and needs in a way that is honest yet respectful, paving the way for more empathy and cooperation between them. Both partners work together to create a positive vision for each partner’s individual goals and a shared vision for their family future post-divorce.


I certainly have never been able to tell partners that the divorce process won’t be painful, that it will not take a long time and that it will not at times seem unbearable. However, I can now tell them there is a way to soften the legal process itself. What was the likelihood that severely wounded fighters believed that they could become strong and competitive again? And what of families wounded by divorce? Collaborative Divorce is a process by which all family members have the opportunity to come through as healthy and connected as possible. It will take time, it will be painful and it will take effort. However, now not only can I help people through the pain, and help them to draw a vision for the future, I can now recommend a process to help families get there.


For more information about Collaborative Divorce or my services as a Collaborative Divorce Coach, please visit my website.


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