Band AidThe following blog was written by Bruce Peck, a Collaborative Attorney.  Bruce can be reached at (952) 435-6799 and Some injuries heal as effortlessly as skinned knees on children. Other injuries take  longer, and leave scars. Some injuries are so severe they take years, decades or lifetimes to heal, if at all. These are the kind of injuries that happen all too frequently in the realm of divorce. One of the most difficult things to do is to learn how to stop loving someone because they have stopped loving you. Sometimes the best dreams are followed by the worst nightmares. When truth and trust are both violated, the betrayal that can follow is among the most difficult things to heal. While healing is not accomplished by everyone, the possibility of healing is available to everyone. Divorce is a seriously complicated circumstance, because in addition to the loss of the marriage the parties also have to work together, or against each other, to reach a final settlement. When hearts are broken, this can be extraordinarily painful. Falling in love can be awfully simple, but getting divorced is simply awful. If only there was a process that could insulate parties from the damaging experience of a contested divorce. If only children could be protected from the resulting carnage that flows over their parents. If only there was a better chance to heal while going through the divorce process. Well, there is. It is called collaborative divorce, and is promoted by the Collaborative Law Institute. Created here in Minnesota, now taught world-wide, this humane technology, honed over more than two decades through conscientious involvement by attorneys, mental health professionals and financial specialists, has become a highly refined process that supports parties to heal through this challenging time. It starts with the commitment of the Collaborative Law Institute to be and become a healing modality by providing rigorous training to all professionals. The resulting process is a container that insulates parties from the conflict while supporting them to reach principled decisions that become their final decree of dissolution. But it goes well beyond that. Collaborative practice now includes the opportunity for parties take a break before launching into the legal process to assess each party’s readiness to engage in this process. Mental health professionals have become trained in a new paradigm, generally referred to as discernment counseling, which allows parties to talk about where each one is at as they start this process, and consider the possibilities of working on healing their relationship. This process is commonly referred to as reconciliation, which means, literally, healing, not necessarily returning to the marriage. However, when parties are able to heal their relationship they are better able to consider ways in which they might be able to recreate a better marriage. It makes no sense to simply return to a marriage fraught with problems. The primary requirement for such a process to take place requires the commitment of both parties to genuinely exam and explore options before moving forward with the divorce. When parties are unwilling or unable to process through these issues at the end of their marriage, they are left with the prospect of healing by conducting their personal and private autopsy of their marriage, with or without the help of a qualified counselor. This can be quite difficult to accomplish. It requires ethical integrity by each partner to commit to such an undertaking. The collaborative process cannot heal the parties, but it can provide the process by which that possibility might take place. That is no small accomplishment under these circumstances. Sometimes parties that heal their relationship might still decide to move forward with their divorce. When this happens, they are each in a powerful place to facilitate gathering the necessary information and reaching agreements to resolve all the issues. The stress upon each party is significantly reduced and the benefit to children is immeasurable. Usually the overall costs and expenses are reduced due to the ability of the parties to do the work necessary to reach conclusion. It has been said that the Chinese character for crisis is two characters that mean dangerous opportunity. In our western society we are not taught instinctively to look for opportunity, but we know all too well what the dangers are. When we live only in fear we are not very adept at healing. To learn more about this process, and to find professionals trained to provide these services visit us at
Tibet Mount EverestAn attorney representing a client going through collaborative divorce is much more than a legal adviser.  The attorney is often a confidant, emotional support system, sounding board, voice of reason, teacher, and financial adviser. Indeed, a collaborative divorce attorney is a “guide.” The Sherpa people in Nepal inhabit the area surrounding Mount Everest. They have become natural guides up the mountain due to their native knowledge, experience in the region, and superior genetic disposition to function in high altitudes. Like lawyers in divorce – they have gone through this before and they are skilled in the tools necessary for success. Most individuals only experience divorce once. A good collaborative attorney has experienced divorce many times – as a guide. They have honed their skills and can “sherpa” or guide clients through this process in an efficient and successful manner. I often ask my clients to think back about their wedding. How much of the wedding was legal? It is often a spiritual, emotional, familial, and sometimes a financial endeavor. The legal piece, however, is more minimal. Perhaps you signed some papers a day or two later and mailed them into the state? A divorce is not all that different. Attorneys should advocate and guide their clients to make decisions in their own best interest. However, the attorney role, much like the wedding itself, is multi-faceted and often not solely focused on legal advocacy. A divorce may feel like a long uphill road, like climbing a mountain. A client needs to find an attorney who they trust in all the roles that attorney will play. A good collaborative attorney should be with you on that journey – guiding you up that path to resolution and peace.
IMG_0282 - Version 2At the beginning of a divorce, you have to choose which path to take.  I think of this choice every time I see this sign in Arizona, where Bloody Basin Road is one direction, and Tranquil Trail goes the opposite way. It’s much like the choice at the beginning of a divorce. I once met a woman who had gone through a highly-contested divorce, followed by 3 years of court battles after the divorce was final. Her story is a cautionary tale of what happens when decisions at the beginning are made out of fear. Her divorce began when her husband came home on a Friday and announced that he had fallen in love with someone else and wanted a divorce. He packed a bag and moved out of the house. She was shocked, hurt, angry and scared. She was a stay-at-home mom, and she didn’t know how she would be able to take care of herself financially. When she called her family, they reacted out of fear: “You better move money out of your joint bank account before he cleans it out, and you’re left with nothing.” Panic kicked in, so she went to a bank first thing Saturday morning to open a new individual account with their joint funds.  And she decided her best move was to hire an aggressive litigator who would fight to protect her. Her husband found out on Monday that she moved their money out of the joint account.  He was shocked, hurt, angry – and also scared.  “How could she do this?  I have always provided for this family, and she made a unilateral decision to take our savings.  She is going to take me for everything I have in this divorce. “ And he decided his best move was to hire an aggressive litigator who would fight to protect him. Once they lawyered up, they were off to the races, tearing down Bloody Basin Road. They each spent several hundred thousand dollars in legal fees. I wonder:  How protected did they feel? How protected did their children feel? I also wonder how this might have been different. What if they didn’t stake out their fear-based positions at the outset? Imagine if they had attorneys trained in collaborative practice who could say, “Slow down.  Let’s keep the status quo with your finances and give you both a chance to understand your options before anyone starts taking action.” Imagine if they had a divorce coach who could help them focus on their long-term goals for the family. Imagine if they had a child specialist who could keep them focused on how to support their children, rather than tearing each other apart. I believe they would have had a better chance of actually protecting themselves if they had used a collaborative process to manage the fear and conflict. They might have been able to drive down Tranquil Trail.
A New LIfeI would not wish divorce on any married couple.   It is a painful process and results in permanent loss.  But I also do not like to see people suffer through unhappy marriages.   Naturally, the best solution is to seek to improve the marriage so that both husband and wife can be happy.  However, there are times when that is simply not possible.  And for those people, their best option may be a “Happy Divorce”. I realize that “Happy Divorce” is a misnomer. No divorce is truly “Happy”.  However, in my thirty years of working with divorcing families, I have known many people who are much happier after the divorce than they were in the marriage.  I have also known hundreds of couples who treat each other with more respect after the divorce than they did during the marriage. The ability to get through a divorce in a respectful manner can be an achievement of immeasurable worth; particularly if there are children of the marriage.  No child wants to live in an unhappy home or, worse yet, two unhappy homes. In our culture, we have come to expect that divorce will bring out the worst in people.   But I have also seen couples who, although they are facing  one of the most difficult times of their lives; have found a way to bring their best selves forward, often for the sake of their children. Divorce is an end; but it is also a beginning.  Many couples even greet divorce as an opportunity to improve their life skills.   In some occasions, these couples, when faced with divorce, find ways to communicate more effectively; work to improve their parenting skills through a neutral parenting specialists; and even find ways to better their financial capacities through the help of a neutral financial expert.   While there are many ways to achieve these goals, one method that is rapidly growing in popularity is called Collaborative Divorce, where couples work with a team of professionals (lawyers, mental health professionals and financial experts) to help them improve their lives after divorce in significant measurable ways.  To learn more about this option, go to  or
I remember about 9 years ago when I needed to make a big life changing decision.  I knew I needed to decide whether or not to leave my safe, predictable law position or go and start my own firm, practicing in a way that felt aligned with my values.  But there were so many uncertainties about making the change.  So I maintained the status quo longer than planned because I needed to get to the place of being ready to take that next step.  And sometimes circumstances push us to a place of being ready before we were planning on it. This is what happens when people divorce.  Usually, one spouse has been contemplating the idea longer than the other and when they make the decision to move forward with divorce, their spouse is not at the same place of readiness.  And when people decide to get a divorce, wanting it over sooner rather than later is what many people want.  But paying attention to where your partner is in readiness, can make all the difference between a good divorce and a bad divorce.  This is something you have influence over.  Giving your spouse a chance to “catch up” and come to terms with the end of the relationship means they will be able to move forward with less resentment, anger and sadness.  And those emotions in a divorce do not make for smooth sailing for you or your children.  If you want a peaceful divorce, readiness is your first opportunity to begin that process. There are things that you can do to move things forward that you can discuss with your attorney, while your soon-to-be ex catches up, like researching your divorce process options (i.e., Collaborative Divorce, Mediation, etc.), gathering necessary documents, working with a therapist, or exploring separating.  But to push them into a process before they are ready, can end up being a disastrous decision.  Giving them time, can be the best thing you do for yourself and your family as a whole.  This is the difference between being penny-wise and pound-foolish and having a no-court divorce. If I had been forced to start my practice before I was ready, I might have chosen to do a different area of law; not found my great office space; and possibly made unwise financial decisions, rather than practicing Collaborative Family Law (something that I truly enjoy doing) in an office that feels safe and comfortable to my clients.  Being ready made all the difference for me.