“Collaborative Divorce: The Revolutionary New Way to Restructure Your Family, Resolve Legal Issues, and Move on with Your Life”,

by Pauline H. Tesler, M.A., J.D., & Peggy Thompson, Ph.D.;

ISBN 10: 0-06-088943-8

5 star must reading.   [The following is what I highlighted during my read of this excellent book -- I recommend it on my Top-ten List of Peace resources.  My purpose in providing them is to interest you, the reader, and hope that you will obtain and read the complete work.  To properly understand the highlights, you need to read the book to put them in the proper context.]


“… your goal: the best divorce the two of you are capable of achieving. … Keeping the focus on best intentions and good decision making in light of that reality is what collaborative divorce is all about.”

“Courts as an institution are set up to find fault and allocate responsibility, and not much more.  Battle is what takes place in a courtroom, and collateral damage is the rule.  And you can’t have a battle without an enemy.”

“Here’s the good news: during divorce, it is entirely normal to experience a wide range of emotions.  Some of them, you now know, are part of how healthy people adjust to losing a major intimate relationship.  Others grow out of that welter of false beliefs and unrealistic expectations connected with marriage and divorce that nearly everyone in our society accepts before seeing them more clearly. … When strong feelings take over, we quite literally cannot think straight … people can rarely achieve their own “best divorce” working alone.  They need the right professional advisors…  The Collaborative divorce process provides coordinated resources that give divorcing individuals and couples the specific kinds of help they need to make good decisions, even – perhaps especially – at a very hard time.”

We assume that your goal is the best divorce you and your partner are capable of achieving.  Such a divorce would protect your children, help you retain your dignity, preserve your finances, allow you to have a cordial relationship with your spouse in the future.  A good divorce builds your self-esteem.”

“It helps protect your future relationship with your spouse by informing both of you fully … about the financial realities of your marriage and divorce in a way that eliminates pointless arguments about economic issues.  It also teaches you and your spouse new ways of problem solving and conflict resolution so that you develop useful skills for addressing your differences more constructively in the future.  Further collaborative divorce:

“In a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse will each have your own collaborative lawyer. … The Lawyers’ responsibilities include:

“Collaborative lawyers are hired solely to help you and your spouse get to the best possible agreement, entirely outside the court system. … In the words of one of our colleagues, ‘I want to help you end your marriage in such a way that you can dance together at your daughter’s wedding.’”

In it they recommend using Collaborative Divorce Coaches (in addition to Collaborative Divorce Lawyers).  Coaches bring “perspectives and skills that only a mental health professional can offer. … Coaches provide emotional encouragement, teach stress management and communication skills, explore parenting concerns, and help ensure that both partners’ needs, concerns, and feelings are understood and expressed in constructive ways.”

They also recommend using a Child Specialist, who “give children a rare opportunity to voice their thoughts and concerns and to be heard on the issues that are important to them without having to feel divided loyalty.

“… many couples save not only time and anguish but also money by including on their divorce team professionals skilled at working constructively with the welter of emotional issues that can arise during divorce. … Unresolved conflicts, fueled by miscommunications and unacknowledged powerful emotions, are the driving force behind high-conflict divorces and the high costs (both emotional and financial) that result.”


“Most people we work with require two or three four-way meetings with the coaches, four to six four-way meetings with the collaborative lawyers, and two or three meetings with the financial specialist. … If real resolution – the kind of resolution that looks as good ten years from now as it does today – is your goal, you should be prepared to commit the time necessary to reach it.”


“… the road map of the process, beginning with information and moving through interests, values, consensus, and brainstorming before reaching resolution.”

“Beginning a collaborative divorce with lawyers can be difficult when emotional volatility is high.  If you have a relationship in which arguments are intense and frequent, it might be better to start with coaches, who can guide you from the very beginning to communicate in more constructive ways. … couples who begin with the coaching process are likely to do important work with coaches and other team members for a while before shifting over to work more intensively with the lawyers. …  Most collaborative lawyers will want you and your partner to have at least a fist consultation with coaches … before the legal work moves forward.  It’s wise to do this, so that coaches will be available quickly if and when they are needed.”


“Once the two lawyers are on board, they’ll find out basic information about your situation, confer with each other, and make recommendations about who could do good coaching in your divorce and who might serve you well as a financial consultant.”


“When all other issues are equal, consider using a coach of your own gender.”


“The search for lasting solutions to the complex problems facing a divorcing couple begins with a candid sharing of information about facts, priorities, values, concerns, and fears. … lawyers can’t usually do the jobs of an entire collaborative team on their own.”


“… your particular needs, concerns, challenges, goals, and vision for the future … which issues have emotional weight, where communication can be improved, which important personal hopes and values must be respected, and which parenting issues may have financial and other implications …”


“… facts about the inner world of hopes and fears, ethics and beliefs, personal integrity and connections to others.  This realm – we refer to it as the ‘inner estate’ or ‘relational estate’ – matters greatly to most of the people we work with.  Judges can’t issue orders about it and so it generally isn’t on the radar screen in old-style divorces …”


“… think about the qualities and principles that would characterize a good divorce process and outcome … highest hopes for him- or herself, for the other partner, and for any children …”


“… sitting together in the same room with your spouse and the other lawyer and saying to each of these points ‘Yes, I understand’ and ‘Yes, I promise’ … forms a reservoir of good-faith understanding and commitments …”


“… ‘mission statements’ and ‘statements of highest intentions’ … each of you describe in simple, broad, value-based terms what the ‘best divorce’ would look like …”


“With coaches on your team, it is they who will do much of the ‘inner realm’ information gathering…”


“…the next phases of the collaborative legal process: developing options and reaching resolutions…”


“…your lawyer will help you:


“Divorce isn’t easy, but most couples really do want to reach a financial settlement that is workable for both spouses.  Once the facts are clear, seldom does either spouse insist on a scenario that is obviously unbalanced, unreasonable, or impractical.”


“In short, a collaborative divorce team doesn’t just give good advice, teach skills, and help you negotiate agreements.  Your professional helpers are skilled ‘process managers’.”


“… the hardest part of a divorce can be learning to handle the intense emotions that so often accompany it.”


“… where parents want the best for their children during and after the divorce, they must learn how to communicate clearly with each other …”


“The purpose of the conversations with coaches is not to find solutions to legal issues but rather to help you address with your partner in constructive ways the emotional complexities that can interfere with clear thinking throughout the collaborative divorce process, particularly at the legal table.”


“Typically, each partner may have three to five private meetings with his or her respective coach before gathering in coaching four-way meetings. … It is especially helpful to start with coaches rather than collaborative lawyers if you and or your partner are in an emotional crisis at the start of your divorce.”


“… the hardest work of all: listening to and understanding what your partner is saying to you.”


“Often your coach will ask you to talk about your marriage and your marital partner using questions such as these:


“… your memory of your marriage will be a permanent part of your internal life history. … The dramatic changes in your life that occur when a marriage ends actually open up a great opportunity for postitive change, if you’re willing to do some dreaming and planning. … you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by considering this difficult passage as an opportunity to learn how to make changes that can substantially improve your life after the divorce.”


“Children become quite distressed if a parent simply disappears from their daily lives without an explanation that makes sense. … Children need to know that there is a plan for them, and for regular contact with both parents, that they can rely on – and parents need to ensure that the plan is honored consistently.”


“Helping parents talk with their children about divorce is one of the earliest and highest priorities in the coaching process.”


“… make up stories to help them understand what is happening that can be much worse than the truth.”


“… not immune from the myth that divorce necessarily means war.  If you can tell them together that you plan to divorce in a noncombative, collaborative way (without fighting), it helps them to see that you will both still be acting as good parents for them.”


“Your coaches will help you and your partner sort all this out and learn effective ways of talking honestly and appropriately with your children in ways that protect them and help them feel well cared for.”


“You can assure them that they, too, will be part of the process and will have a person to talk with, since the divorce is going to change their lives, too. … Getting into the collaborative divorce process quickly is important if your children are already having to adjust to marital separation.”


“… offering them the opportunity to work with a child specialist.”


“Children are better off not being given false assurances.  They can tolerate the unknown as long as they know that their parents are working to create a plan.  … talk … in constructive ways that tell the truth and avoid blame and judgment of the other parent …”

“… communicating a great deal of accurate information about goals:


“… your joint mission statement in the coaching process can be an elaboration of what each of you may have already brought forward as individual statements of your highest intentions at the legal four-way table.”


“… future-focused planning and dreaming of new opportunities in your life is the hallmark of the new-style divorce and will be a key part of your recovery process.”


“Composing a joint mission statement with your coaches gives both of you the opportunity to think ahead about events that will challenge you to make good choices about your behaviour as you divorce and as you cope with rapid change following the legal divorce.”


“… allowing an opportunity to forgive each other for the failure of the marriage.”


“The child specialist starts by meeting with both parents to hear their perspectives and concerns and then meeting with the children – privately, unless they are very young.”


“Next, the child specialist will meet with you, your spouse, and both your coaches in a ‘five-way’ meeting to discuss your children’s concerns and needs, while providing perspectives about what is working for your children and what could be improved.”


“The child specialist’s work is not psychotherapy.  It is not intended to deal with extreme emotional disturbances but emphasizes divorce-related changes and challenges. … For the sake of the children, this is generally done as soon as possible.”


“… creating a permanent parenting plan at the time of your divorce makes very little sense. … assuming that change will happen and building in ongoing reviews at regular intervals.”


“Consensus means that each partner has shared understanding of exactly where you are aligned and exactly where you differ, based on full and complete information about the inner- and outer-world facts of your specific situation.  Consensus building focuses the problem-solving efforts that will follow exactly where they are needed.”


“A couple reaches consensus when they have:


“You can realistically expect to achieve a broad, overlapping consensus with your spouse about outer-world facts, because most outer-world facts can be pinned down if you keep on gathering and sharing information – which is exactly what your team will insist upon.”


“And you’ll reach consensus about inner-world values and priorities about the divorce.  Whether that consensus includes recognizing a broad area of overlapping interests and values or recognizing a broad area of differences, you’ll understand what matters most to each of you.”


“Once consensus exists, fears generally receded and confidence that a solution might be found grows.”


“Using this foundation, your ultimate settlement agreement can truly resolve (rather than paper over) divorce issues because it will represent your best effort to respect the deepest values of each of you …”


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