Divorce With Decorum: A Way to Minimize Conflict

BY STEVE DINNEN

It’s still pretty much a 50-50 proposition whether a marriage will last for more than 20 years. And all too often divorces turn ugly over matters tied to behavior, children and money. 

There still will be divorces. But the split might come a little more amicably if you follow a process called collaborative divorce. You don’t spar in a courtroom before a judge—an expensive, time-consuming and emotional experience. Instead, the spouses sit down at the same table (with lawyers present) and work through their grievances to come up with solutions that will be fair to both sides.

Practitioners of the collaborative divorce are actually trained in how to work through the process, and a lead educator and proponent of them is West Des Moines attorney Kimberly Stamatelos. She and law partner Ashley Tollakson say they are “committed to creating the more peaceful, respectful, cost-effective solution to family conflict.”

A collaborative divorce strives to avoid these conflicts by first getting both sides to agree to stay out of court: You’ll have to find a new lawyer should you decide to litigate. This non-court move will bring you to a bargaining table, where you’ll define what you want to accomplish.

“What are your goals?” Stamatelos asks clients to decide. The answer might be “I want to keep my house. I want to keep my business,” she said. 

Stamatelos notes that she was trained as a lawyer, not a financial expert. So she is a fan of “off-lining” clients, putting them in touch with specialists such as accountants and financial planners who will develop plans to split up assets. Child custody questions similarly get referred to outside experts. She might even call upon a divorce coach, who, said one coach, can boost your clarity, confidence and courage. The goal of these advisers is to work with the attorney to develop a comprehensive plan to make the divorce work.

In a traditional divorce, someone wins and someone loses, Stamatelos said. They obviously can damage family relationships. A collaborative divorce can treat everyone respectfully. And they can save money when parties cooperate, even when these “off-liners” get involved.

Done right, a collaborative divorce can bring kindness, compassion and dignity to a process that is all too often lacking in these descriptors. This is not to say that there will not be friction, or that splitting spouses will walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand. But Stamatelos said it will help people tap into their higher self, during what is likely a pretty low time.

For more information, contact the Central Iowa Academy Of Collaborative Professionals (CIACP): 
www.iowacollaborativedivorce.com

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