Suze Orman's October advice column in Oprah magazine touches on the costs of divorce for couples. Orman recommended collaboration (or collaborative divorce) as a way for couples to "divorce with dignity." Collaborative divorce allows for parties to create their own solutions regarding spousal support, division of property, child custody and other issues facing couples as they separate. The parties explore what each person envisions as his or her post-divorce life and consider different possible solutions with their attorneys (and sometimes other professionals such as financial planners and mental health professionals). The group works together dynamically to assist the family members reach individual and family goals.
Rather than having individuals getting locked into positions, everyone agrees to consider what each person's interests are. Simply put, rather than saying, "I have to have the Volvo (positional negotiation)," a person would say, "I need safe transportation for me and the children (interest-based negotiation)."
Collaboration is often exemplified by a fictional argument between a brother and sister over the last remaining orange in the fruit bowl. Each asks the parent for it, simply saying he or she wants the orange (positional negotiation). A simplistic approach would be to either split the orange or to flip a coin. A collaborative approach would ask each child why each wants the orange. If we find that one needs the rind to make a cake, and the other wants to eat the orange, each child can have his or her interests met by a creative division of the orange. Simplistic, positional thinking would not allow for either child to have his or her interests met. Interest based negotiation allows for each to be satisfied.
Ask your attorney about collaborative divorce as an alternative to contested litigation. You can also learn more about collaboration at www.collaborativedivorce.com.