July 19, 2013

Deciding the Terms of Your Divorce

Marriage is a contract.  Once you get married you have either wittingly or unwittingly agreed to a host of legal terms of a contract.  The terms of this contract can even change because the laws change or even because people move to a different state. Very often, people aren’t even aware of these terms until they seek a divorce.

When parties seek a divorce, they are essentially entering into a new contract. For decades, the terms of divorce were directed by state laws and then agreed upon by the parties involved in the divorce or decided by a third party (such as a judge) when an agreement could not be met. But the key point is that the terms agreed upon were dictated by state law.

The legal system is an adversarial system.  The concept is that, if each party to a legal action is represented by competent counsel who argues and fights for that party’s legal rights, the parties will meet somewhere either through negotiation or court ruling.  The assumption is that when the parties meet, it will be equitable.

Apply that to a divorce proceeding.  Yuck.

In 1990, Stuart Webb of Minneapolis started a new process of divorce called Collaborative Divorce.  Mr. Webb recognized that some divorce attorneys had already discovered that using the adversarial system to reach the goals in divorce seemed counter-intuitive.  He asked the question, “What if we could get these attorneys together and AGREE not to be adversarial?”

Perhaps as important, this working together to achieve goals opens the door to ignoring those one-size-fits-all terms that state legislators have deemed appropriate, and finding custom-fit terms to your unique life.  You do not have to have the terms of their divorce, indeed terms that shape their daily lives, dictated by others.  You do not need to label their parenting status according to state statutes.  You do not need to be bound by a Child Support Calculator to determine the amount they need to provide monthly for the care of their children.

You can decide.

Kimberly Miller,JD, MA, LAMFT

Author disclaimer submitted here with what you want to have at the bottom of each of your posts.

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