Maybe you have seen the memes about spouses sheltering in place filing for divorce on day 1 of quarantine. Some of them are pretty hilarious I have to say. It's that painfully true kinda funny, ya know? But for some families this is absolutely no joke.
The increased togetherness, intense stressors and sudden adjustments have taken a toll on all of us. Local family law attorneys tell me they are experiencing a noticeable uptick in divorce cases since the COVID-19 pandemic. While I don't think it's fair to say quarantine is responsible for marriages breaking down, it has caused us to slow down a bit and see -- really see -- some difficult truths about ourselves and our relationships. Some couples are growing stronger. Other are realizing damage beyond repair.
Whether you are finding a great stride and thriving with your spouse, or facing a difficult decision to end the relationship, I want you to know something. And your friends and neighbors too. Y'all, there's a kinder way to handle family law and it just has to become common knowledge so we can change the cultural expectation. My clients who are deep in a litigated divorce or picking up in the pieces years afterward say that they wish they had known. If only someone told me. I didn't know there was another way. It could have been so different.
We all have a concept for how traditional divorce works. Each side fights to come out on top with little regard for collateral damage. At the end it looks like there's a clear winner and loser. Collaborative divorce is an alternative to traditional divorce litigation. This means that you and your spouse will decide how to build new lives with a team of experts outside of the court room in a noncombative manner. Teams are developed based on the family's individual needs, but typically include a neutral facilitator such as a psychologist, neutral financial expert, and two collaborative family law attorneys. The collaborative process brings each of these specialized advocates to the same table – and the same team.
Divorce involves legal, financial, and emotional stressors. A collaborative law team provides specialists to address each of these areas in a peaceful and organized manner. Of course pain is inherent in divorce, and by no means is the collaborative process free of these challenges. In acknowledging these struggles, the team is able to more comprehensively meet the needs. A collaborative law team will be diligent to address the difficulties as they arise, providing advocates for each potentially painful area, and work diligently to eliminate unnecessary collateral damage.
I've had the honor of seeing that there is better way for families to restructure and rebuild. It shouldn't be a secret. I hope you'll help me make this common knowledge.
Dr. Stodard is a trained collaborative divorce facilitator and serves on the West Florida Collaborative Divorce board of directors. Click here for more information about collaborative divorce or contact Dr. Stodard directly.