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Top Five Reasons to Divorce Collaboratively After Age 50

The last in series of articles by local experts on issues to be covered at Saturday's Transitions conference at Bucks County Community College.

In advance of the inaugural “Transitions: Positive Living for Boomers” conference to be held this Saturday at Bucks County Community College, the college has shared with Newtown Patch previews of some of the workshops that will take place there. This is the last of three articles.

By Tracy A. Timby

It’s never an easy decision to end a marriage. But if you find you’ve made the tough choice to divorce, it’s important to do so collaboratively, rather than go through litigation, especially if you are a Baby Boomer over age 50.

Here are the top five reasons to do so:

Privacy. Divorce files are public record and all court appearances are open to the public.  In a typical litigated divorce, the court file will contain details about income, retirement funds, investments, value of your home, mortgage balance, all debt, names and ages of your children, your age, health status, documentation of any drug or alcohol issues, allegations about your parenting, marital misconduct, credit worthiness, and much more.

In a collaborative divorce, all of the above is shared only with the people directly involved in the case and only upon agreement of both parties.  The paperwork filed is what is necessary to process the divorce and document the agreement of the parties.

Control.  Nothing is out of the clients’ control in a collaborative divorce.  Each party sets goals. Ways to meet those goals are discussed and professionals who can help are added as needed, but only with consent of the client. 

At age 50 or older, most clients have significant retirement assets.  In a collaborative divorce, clients can get an idea of what the future looks like as a result of a division of retirement or investment funds through the use of a financial advisor.  Couples are not forced by a court order to sell their home in a dismal real estate market.

Rational – not emotional – decision-making. People going through divorce are usually suffering emotionally.  Anger, bitterness, grief and guilt are all common, natural and expected emotions seen in divorcing parties. In a litigated divorce, these emotions are ignored (or lead to increased billing) and the attorneys plow through the legal process based upon often irrational direction from the client which is rooted in emotion.  Invariably, decisions made from emotion turn out to be a person’s biggest regret.

In a collaborative divorce, a divorce coach can assist the parties in managing the stress and emotion that come with divorce.  This allows parties to make clear-headed, forward thinking decisions instead of critical financial or personal decisions based on the heat of the moment. 

Less emotional trauma to children. Many couples in their 50s have children for whom divorce can be a very scary thing, leading to anxiety and worry.  Research has shown that how a couple conducts themselves during a divorce has a far greater impact on their children than the actual divorce. The all-out battle approach to custody, asset distribution and support often leaves couples in financial and emotional shambles. Children are put in the middle and family friends are forced to pick a side.  None of this is good for children.   

In a collaborative divorce, there is a sense of integrity and mutual respect that benefits children. Parenting decisions are made by the parents with the advice of a child specialist and not a judge. Couples should be able to cooperate with each other, and look for opportunities for resolution instead of revenge, which is what is good for children.  

Cost effective. Inevitably, divorcing couples need their money – there will be two households and two sets of expenses.  Traditional divorce attorneys don’t focus on preserving the client’s cash, but on getting the “best” result at whatever the cost.  But a collaborative divorce, focusing on conflict resolution with direct communication between the parties and attorneys,  makes the process go smoother and faster, and since legal fees are billed hourly the cost is lower.

About the Author: Tracy A. Timby, JD,MS, is a founding member of the Bucks County Collaborative Law Group, a Certified Mediator for the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas, and a trained Family Law Mediator. She’s also the director of the paralegal program at Bucks County Community College. She will speak Saturday at the Transitions conference.

Transitions will be held from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the college's Newtown campus, 275 Swamp Rd. Register today to receive a discount on registration. Tickets are $25. To learn more, http://www.bucks.edu/transitions, e-mail transitions@bucks.edu or call 215-968-8409.

S April 15, 2011 at 11:32 PM
It's important to mention that, should the parties not come to full agreement, they have signed a contractual agreement in which they lose their representation and all the money they paid. Therefore, some parties sign under duress, and this is an unfortunate reality of collaborative divorce. In addition, there's no true paradigm shift to conflict resolution. Rather, there's simply less adversarial advocacy. If parties want to enjoy the full and real benefits of mediation, they should seek a trained divorce mediation (best to find one who practicies transformative mediation). Collaborative is right some couples, but not for parties who will find themselves agreeing because they've paid themselves into a corner.
Guy Vitetta April 16, 2011 at 04:59 PM
to deny a paridigm shift reflects a lack of understanding of the fundamental principals of conflict resolufion. read "getting to yes" . CL is simply a new way for lawyers to do law within the context of a different set of dispute resolution rules: interest based negotiation. Guy Vitetta Charleston SC
Tracy A. Timby, Esquire April 16, 2011 at 06:25 PM
Mediation or Collaborative Divorce are by far better options than protracted litigation. As a trained divorce mediator, I have seen couples be able to work out an agreement but I have also seen couples frustrated by the fact that I, as the mediator, could not provide legal advice. When I was a practicing divorce litigator, I saw couples agree in litigation just because of the extreme expense. Collaborative is typically less expensive and provides much needed assistance with regard to the long term impact of financial decisions made in divorce, models appropriate conflict resolution for children and assists people with the emotional impact of divorce.
TheLawCollaborative April 17, 2011 at 12:59 AM
This is a wonderfully written, intelligent, and important article. It should be read by every single couple considering divorce. Unfortunately, litigation is so ingrained as the only option for divorce, that I don't think most people realize they have other options. Thank you for helping to educate people that there are other, better ways.
KC Biddle April 17, 2011 at 05:24 PM
I liked the article and am considering divorce, but both folks need to agree on this and if they could agree on these types of things then they probably are not considering divorce. My spouse doesn't have financial worries because either I or her family have always provided what is necessary for her to sustain satisfaction. As long as you do not demand things from her she goes about her merry way. I want more than satisfaction out of life, I want love, happiness and when we gripe, we gripe together not at one another. Her spendthrift attitude and any other couple who has a spendthrift partner will find this type of divorce virtually impossible, but a needed approach.
Cd Berger April 18, 2011 at 03:55 PM
Many people in Mediation or "collaborative divorce" do not agree on anything, but can successfully mediate with the help of a skilled Mediator. They can even mediate through "remote mediation" using skype, or other means of communicating. www.Belacord.com offers these options.
Avery Schlacter August 15, 2013 at 11:10 AM
I've been having problems with <a href="http://www.gittenslaw.ca.wss.yellowpages.ca/family_law.html">divorce in Newfoundland</a> and this has helped a lot. So thank you for this.

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