Divorce After 50 – Why Collaborative?
Submitted by Maribeth Blessing, Esquire
Many people today are considering divorcing their partners. Surprisingly, the group with the highest rising divorce rate are seniors over 50. The trend among this group of people is called “gray divorce”. Sometimes the divorce is happening as the parties waited until all of their children are on their own. Other times one partner simply decides they have had enough and want to move on for various reasons – financial, emotional, or involvement with a third party. And then it is simple because the parties have moved apart and mutually wish to part ways and live their lives separately. No matter what the reason, it is always a difficult decision laden with lots of fears for both sides. How will I survive financially? Didn’t see this coming, what happens to me? How do we start living separately with the least amount of damage for us both?
Divorce has never been an easy topic, especially among those who have been married for a long time. Collaborative divorce is a non-court process that will not escalate the traumatic, emotional and financial overtones that are part of the overwhelming divorce process. Collaborative divorce is all about teamwork and working together to help the parties navigate, communicate and focus on their needs, the other spouse’s needs and the needs of the family throughout the divorce process. It involves the parties forming a “team” with professionals who are collaboratively trained to help them in this procedure and help focus on interests and solutions that have the best outcome for everyone. With a mind-set to settle rather than fight, collaborative divorce allows parties to work out their differences with a non-adversarial approach. This has many benefits, but the two major benefits of this process is that it promotes amicable relationships and co-parenting and brings parties financial empowerment to consider their own needs, the needs of the other party, and the needs of the family.
Another great advantage of the Collaborative Process lies in the teamwork. The cost of the full team is balanced by savings resulting from the efficiency of full team process. Instead of the parties each paying their own lawyer for every necessary meeting, some meetings may be with the divorce coach or financial planner whereby the parties are sharing the cost of only one professional for certain tasks where the Professional has special training to handle instead of all aspects being handled solely by the lawyers. Special collaborative training of all professionals, especially communication training, enhances the possibility for successful communication with one another both for the team and the parties. The collaborative approach provides couples the opportunity to focus on targeted tasks, everyone’s interests and needs, and provides maximum creative solutions generated with the help of the professionals and between the parties. The use of a coach provides support of parties and professionals in developing tools for communication and managing dynamics. The financial specialist will provide the current status as to the parties’ financials and budgets and offer projections of future consequences of different outcomes most comprehensively and economically. Each professional provides for the specialized skills which support the parties and professionals allowing the team to focus on their area of expertise, and offer the parties a full, comprehensive and creative process environment.
When parties divorce after age 50, chances are that there are still children involved or even grandchildren as we never stop being parents. While the children may be older, divorce is a tough subject and it might be harder on them than if the parents had separated during an acrimonious marriage and while children were at a younger age and more able to transition the change. Because collaborative divorce is a non-adversarial option, it helps parties to maintain a good relationship with their ex-spouse. This makes events like future graduations and weddings easier for everyone involved. If the children still live with the parents and are not yet emancipated, a collaborative divorce also helps parents to tailor their parenting arrangements to what best works for both parents and for the child or children. Parents are able to discuss these arrangements rather than engage in destructive litigation, and settlements come much quicker and are far more creative, allowing both parents to support one another and complement one another in their parenting roles and creating a harmonious united co-parenting team for their children..
Financial dependency is a big factor in why people do not get divorced. People believe that they are too financially dependent on their spouse to even consider it, especially if they have spent years out of the workforce throughout the duration of their marriage. Collaborative divorce allows spouses to talk and work out a plan for financial support that works for both spouses. It is also far less expensive to do a collaborative divorce rather than litigation, both financially and emotionally. In addition to the cheaper pricing, collaborative divorce also is done quicker than litigation and there are global settlements of all issues, instead of fragmented and non-comprehensive settlements in each area of support, custody or equitable distribution of assets and debt or worse yet, the infliction of court directed remedies that are not suitable or palatable for either parent, let alone the children.. This global and comprehensive collaborative process allows parties to not feel trapped in unproductive and endless court dates that seemingly get nowhere and gives parties the ability to quickly move on with their lives and waste less time and money.