December 1, 2014

The End is the Beginning

The secret to a constructive and respectful divorce is to start at the end and work backward.  Ask yourself, “What do I want my life, my spouse’s life, and my children’s lives to look like when the divorce is all over?  What is my vision for the future?”

In fact, the first task of clients who choose a collaborative divorce process is to answer these questions and to share their answers with each other.  Here are some of their answers:

Couple A

  • Children/Family
    We want our children and ourselves to feel that we are a family that loves and cares for each other.
  • Relational
    We want us to look back on this difficult time and be proud of how we handled ourselves and each other.
    We want both of us to be happy in the future.
  • Financial
    We want our final agreement to ensure equitable life styles and standards of living.
    We want our final agreement to provide financial security for both of us in retirement and in the event of the death of either of us.
    We want our final agreement to respect the financial decisions/intent of our respective families to leave us money.
  • Process
    We want a divorce process that supports a positive future.
    We want a divorce process in which we both feel heard and safe to discuss difficult issues.
    We want to be comfortable with our final agreement and to have a mechanism for implementing it.
    We want our divorce process to be cost effective and efficient.
    We want to minimize the emotional and financial stress of our divorce.

Couple B

  • Children
    For our son to have a solid, cohesive parenting team who loves him.
    For our son to be shielded from the negative aspects of the divorce.
  • Financial
    For both households to have financial stability and security.
    For us to be debt-free by using an intentionally controlled plan of action.
  • Relational/Emotional
    That we create a trusting relationship with each other and the potential for friendship.
    That we reduce the emotional and financial stress we feel as a result of our divorce.
  • Process
    That the collaborative process be as cost-effective as possible while obtaining the added value that our neutral professionals bring to the process.

Couple C

  • For our children not to feel divided.
  • For our children to feel comfortable with both of us.
  • For us to convey a sense of harmony to our children.
  • To have financial security for both of us.
  • To get along with each other after the divorce; to have mutual respect for each other; and to have a pleasant relationship.

By starting at the end, couples are reminded how much they still have in common despite the ending of their marriage. By starting at the end and working backward, the couple and their team of collaborative professionals can focus all their attention on crafting a settlement that accomplishes the couple’s vision. By starting at the end, the collaborative divorce process promotes healing and a peaceful transition through this important life event.

If you or someone you know might benefit from using a collaborative process for their divorce, go to and to find out more about Collaborative Divorce.

Tonda Mattie

Tonda Mattie has been a Family Law attorney for over 30 years and has practiced exclusively Collaborative Family Law since 2006.  She has been involved in the Collaborative Law movement since 1992.  She has been past President and past Co-President of the Collaborative Law Institute (CLI) of Minnesota.  She has headed the CLI Training Committee as chair or co-chair since 2004.  She is engaged in the practice of her dreams using a collaborative process that 1) allows good people to be their best despite the crisis they are in; 2) is centered on the well-being of the children; 3) creates a safe environment for difficult conversations; 4) focuses on the future rather than on blame and past grievances; 5) identifies and meets the needs and interests of all family members; 6) empowers parties to control and create their own mutual settlement; and 7) creates a climate in which healing can begin to occur. Visit her website at

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