Healthy Divorce: How Collaborative Divorce May Be The Healthiest Way To Divorce

By Margaret Zuleger, JD

Nobody can say divorce is good for your health, but Collaborative Divorce may be the healthiest way to go through a divorce. Scientific research confirms that stress is bad for our health. Stress raises your cortisol levels, and elevated cortisol levels create inflammation which is known to be the cause of many ailments. So if you find yourself needing to go through a divorce, you might want to consider the Collaborative Divorce method.

The Collaborative Divorce method is a team approach to helping you dissolve your marriage. You and your spouse will both have your own attorney and you will all meet for a series of meetings, often with the additional support of a coach and/or a financial neutral, to come up with your written agreements that are then presented in court for finalization of the divorce. The attorneys pledge at the beginning of the case that they will not go to court, so there is no court involvement during the process. Knowing from the beginning that you will not be dragged into court for anything can be a source of great relief – and good for your cortisol levels!

Collaborative Divorce is healthier than tradition litigation because the whole team is working together to try to move you through the process with as little stress and animosity as possible. You will be encouraged by both attorneys and the other professionals to be peaceful, respectful and dignified throughout the divorce process. The collaborative attorneys will not make things worse between the two of you, or drag out the process for their own benefit like some traditional litigation attorneys have unfortunately been known to do. The more peaceful the divorce process, the healthier it is for you. The healthier you are during and after the divorce, the better you can care for yourself, parent your children, or accomplish whatever it is that you want for yourself after your divorce is over.

Collaborative Divorce is especially healthier for families because the Collaborative teams will help you preserve what is good about your parenting relationship and possibly even help you set up new, more functional ways of co-parenting in the future. Imagine the gift you can give your children by remaining cooperative and positive with your ex-spouse throughout all of your their school and other activities where they want both parents who can coexist without the drain of negative emotion and behavior, as well as throughout future milestones (graduations, weddings, babies). You may have heard horror stories about divorces tearing families apart. That’s not a myth. It’s scary how quickly a high conflict litigated divorce can spiral out of control.

By contrast, in a Collaborative Divorce case, since we are all meeting, face-to-face, with all of the professionals doing their best to help you find solutions to your challenges, you can imagine that negative behavior will not be encouraged (and to some extent avoided in the first place, as it is harder to be outrageous and rude in person versus through a hired gun attorney). The attorneys, because they are Collaboratively trained, also work to maintain a respectful tone in their own communication, which helps to reduce stress in the room as well.

This is not to say that Collaborative meetings are all butterflies and roses. On the contrary, we are usually dealing with some very real anger, sadness, fear, frustration and embarrassment. The way we deal with that is to be curious about what might be able to be done to help. We figure out what are the underlying needs, concerns or hopes that are coming out as negative behavior.
For example, say someone has an emotional outburst, the professionals (especially the coach) will work together to make the collaborative meeting room a safe place to explore WHY someone had an outburst so that we can help set the ground work for finding solutions that will ultimately serve the family’s best interests.

Sometimes, the communication between the soon-to-be-ex-spouses has broken down so completely that they are essentially not even talking to each other. So when we get in the meeting, it all comes out. But you know what? That’s good. Because if you don’t know what’s important to someone, you can’t help them. Sometimes just getting negative feelings off your chest by saying them out loud takes a lot of the negative emotion out of the situation and lets the healing begin.

Getting an actual conversation started about the issues that have to be decided is often easier and more productive in a Collaborative Divorce case because both attorneys and the coach will be in the room to help. Sometimes Spouse A thinks that a particular issue has been discussed and decided, but really Spouse B has just remained silent in response to what Spouse A has said, and Spouse A has taken that silence as acceptance. But really, Spouse B just didn’t want to engage in a conversation (or start what they feel will be an unproductive fight), so that when the subject comes up in the Collaborative Divorce, Spouse B for the first time finds his or her voice and is able to express to Spouse A that they don’t agree, or have other ideas that need to be explored.

The sooner real conversations can take place, the sooner the divorce can be completed, thus reducing the stress of going through the divorce in the first place. Being in a safe environment to have the difficult conversations can go a long way to reducing your stress in general. Reducing your stress is good for your health.

To find your collaboratively trained team, check out the professionals at the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois at www.collablawil.org and give one of us a call. We are here to help.

Margaret A. Zuleger
Law Offices of Margaret A. Zuleger, P.C.
121 S. Wilke Road, Suite 301
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
847-920-7732 phone
mz@ZulegerLaw.com
www.ZulegerLaw.com