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A Different Kind of Divorce

Divorce is never an easy decision. Whether it is from our own lives, our relatives, or our friends, we all have a story of the damage that can occur in divorce. What if it doesn’t have to be that way?

Collaborative divorce grew out of the belief that we, as professionals, need to provide families with a better option. Our court system serves a purpose, but it can also cause a lot of collateral damage and leave scars that make it hard to work together after all the legal professionals go home. A common question we ask clients is, “what story do you want your kids to tell about your divorce in 10 years?”

Collaborative divorce takes a team approach to help families design how they will transition from one home to two homes. The team includes a collaboratively trained attorney for each spouse as well as two neutral professionals.

The first neutral team member is a family professional or coach. Families going through divorce will experience the stages of grief. A lot of the conflict that I see as an attorney and mediator comes out of this grieving process. We are losing not only the marriage but all of the plans and dreams we created over the years. While the traditional system tends to either dismiss or weaponize these feelings, the collaborative process addresses them in their proper context by utilizing the expertise of a family professional. This helps the parents improve their communication and problem-solving skills so that they can co-parent successfully.

The second neutral is a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA). The idea of supporting two homes with the same incomes that supported one or the retirement we saved during marriage being divided can be daunting. Fear is not helpful in decision making. A CDFA brings clarity and options to our financial discussions as we design a plan to ensure monthly budgets will be met and that other assets will be divided equitably. We have learned through experience that even when “the numbers” seem simple, the emotions that they are wrapped up in make it important to have both neutrals on our team.

What I love about collaborative divorce is that it puts the family first. We work with couples to get them out of the stress based, fight or flight, thinking that makes it hard to make good decisions. We provide the resources they need to transition to their next stage of life without dragging a lot of divorce baggage behind them. It is remarkable to watch the transformation that occurs over the course of a case.

Collaborative divorce isn’t just for people who get along and agree on everything. If you have made your peace with your situation and figured out how you want to parent your kids and divide your stuff, you don’t need a team. There are different options available to meet you where you are so that you only pay for the services you need (more about those next time).

As one of our family professional says, collaborative divorce is for couples who don’t want to be married anymore but don’t want to blow up their families emotionally and financially to get there.

Kristen Boldt is an integrative attorney, mediator, and peacemaker in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information visit

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