While divorce is often expensive, when you look back on your divorce many years from now, the financial cost is not likely to be your most significant concern. If things do not go well during your divorce it is more likely that your real regrets will have more to do with the “real cost” of divorce; the impact on your children and on your emotional state. Can this “real cost” of divorce be reduced? Yes, but it takes hard work. The cost of your marriage. Of course, the first thing to think about is whether the divorce is necessary. If you are considering starting a divorce that you think can be avoided, make sure you explore all of your options before you give up on something you have worked to build. I am not talking about continuing to be unhappy in your marriage. I am only urging you to think about whether finding a way to become happy within the marriage may be a possibility and to consider whether the idea of happiness outside the marriage could be a mirage. If you have determined that the marriage cannot be saved (and I realize this may not be within your control), your next focus needs to be on how to avoid the real “cost” or damage that divorce can create. The cost of conflict to your family. Almost all divorce cases settle before going to trial. However, many people experience conflict during the settlement that can cause long term damage to their co-parenting relationship or their ability to move forward with their lives. So how do you achieve a settlement without high conflict and still protect yourself in the divorce process? Good settlements require a high degree of commitment. If you, and the professionals you hire, are truly committed to reaching a settlement that works for you and your children, you can achieve an outcome that reduces conflict and protects your other important interests. While your commitment will make the most difference, you also want an attorney that is committed to getting a good settlement as well. Almost all attorneys today will say they want to help you achieve an acceptable settlement. However, the difference between wanting a good settlement and committing to settlement is night a day. If getting the best settlement, and avoiding the real “cost” of divorce is important to you, you should consider hiring an attorney that is fully committed to settlement. Collaborative attorneys are attorneys who commit, in writing, to achieve a settlement that is acceptable to you. At the beginning of their case, both Collaborative attorneys sign a written document stating, in essence, that if they cannot get an acceptable settlement, they will be fired. The commitment to settlement causes everyone to use methods that are more effective; including full transparency, negotiation based on big picture goals, working with other professionals for more efficiency and reducing the posturing and arguing. To learn more about the Collaborative Process, and to find attorneys who are experienced in this area, go to www.collaborativelaw.org or www.divorcechoice.com.