By Beth Proudfoot, LMFT

Respectful Divorce — for some that may sound like an oxymoron. But people who have been married for twenty years or more are often searching for a way to divorce peacefully, with respect and dignity…and even hugs or handshakes after negotiating a fair settlement for both spouses.

Sometimes the challenge is that friends and family egg on the conflict. They’ll suggest that, “You need to hire a Shark!” or tell divorce horror stories such as, “My friend Sam lost EVERYTHING.” The search for a process that is kind, thoughtful, and respectful seems impossible. But there is a way!

Collaborative Divorce is a better way to untie the knot. Your financial issues may be complex, or emotions may be high. One or both spouses could be feeling so angry, hurt, or betrayed they have a hard time thinking or communicating clearly. The Collaborative Divorce process gives couples the support they need and can deliver the kind of divorce settlement that breaks the odds and doesn’t break the bank.

Many family law attorneys these days are calling themselves “collaborative,” meaning that they work with other attorneys with integrity to come as close as possible to a win-win solution. Collaborative Divorce is something quite different. It’s an alternative dispute resolution process which requires special training and experience that involves professionals from different disciplines all working together. These professionals include divorce financial analysts and mental health/communication coaches in addition to family law attorneys They are all members of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals which is a clear indication of their commitment to the Collaborative Divorce process. There is a strict code of ethics and structured protocols which have been proven to work to help couples to communicate effectively and develop creative win/win solutions for the entire family.

Collaborative Divorce may not be for everyone. Some divorcing spouses need the protection of court orders. Some estates are so basic, and some communication challenges are so minor that couples can do the divorce themselves with help from online resources or mediate with a single skilled mediator. However, when feelings are bitter, trust is low, the estate has lots of moving pieces, AND both parties have no interest in starting a war, Collaborative Divorce may be the answer. For more information or to find a San Francisco Collaborative Divorce Professional, visit our Professional Listings.

Beth Proudfoot, LMFT practices in the San Francisco Bay area. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who offers services as a collaborative divorce coach, a child specialist, a mediator, and parenting coach.