You can still divorce in a non-adversarial, less toxic way even though all trust between you and your partner/spouse is damaged or even completely gone.  How can this possibly work?  A Collaborative Divorce is the answer.

Look for Collaboratively trained family law attorneys, mental health professionals (divorce coaches), and financial specialists (CFPs or CPAs) from a Collaborative Practice Group as these practitioners have years of experience and training helping their clients reach acceptable agreements for sharing parenting rights and responsibilities, dividing assets and debts, and allocating future income between them.

How does this work in practice?

Each of you have an attorney who represents just you.  He/she helps you understand the law as it relates to your family’s property and to spousal and child support.  Each of you may have a mental health professional who helps you to articulate your goals and interests as it relates to your future.  This person also helps you draft your parenting plan which includes all necessary agreements about how you each raise your children over the coming years.  You may decide to seek the advice from a child specialist who educates the two of you on the different development stages of your children.  And lastly, there is one neutral financial specialist who helps you gather all your financial information.  He/she will prepare your legally required Schedules of Assets and Debts and Income and Expense Declarations.  Because the financial specialist is neutral, all necessary information is provided which allows all financial options to be explored and digested.  There is usually one spouse who has handled all the finances.  If this is the case in your family, the neutral financial specialist will be sure you understand all the finances before you make any agreements.  Education is a key part of a Collaborative Divorce.

There are a series of joint meetings (2, 3, 4 – depending on the complexity of your situation) where different topics are addressed.  Only those professionals whose expertise is needed attend the meetings.  When all agreements are made, the attorneys prepare the marital settlement agreement which will be sent to the court for the final judgment.  Neither of you will step into a courtroom.  All required legal forms are taken care of by your attorneys.

These professionals provide each of you with enough support to be confident in the agreements that you make.  And a Collaborative Divorce can help rebuild that all important missing trust because you are empowered to make your agreements together.

Judith F. Sterling, CDFA, CPA is a divorce financial professional practicing in San Francisco, Marin, and Sonoma Counties.  More information in her bio on the “Find A Professional” page.