The stories regarding Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' divorce have died down. In the intervening months, they have demonstrated that their private, reasoned divorce can establish a new family relationship and they can both care for their daughter. They have evidently fashioned a complete and lasting settlement.
There are thousands of civilized, comprehensive and private divorces happening among less celebrated couples all the time.
If you are worried about the impact that a divorce may have on your standing in the community or on your career, rest assured that both of you can shield your personal lives from public scrutiny, if you both value the need to do so.
In most cases, there is one member of the couple who wishes to stay married and one who prefers to leave the marriage. Our divorce laws permit the partner who is leaving to do so over the objection of the partner who wants to stay married. This sets the stage for conflict.
How do two people who want something radically different achieve a civilized, lasting settlement and divorce? They do it by accepting professional help when the going gets tough. The most comprehensive method is Collaborative Practice. You start with 2 attorneys who have been trained in the collaborative model. They will ask you each to begin working with a coach (mental health professional) who is also collaboratively trained. The coach will help you each deal with the range of emotions that accompany a divorce in a thoughtful and productive way. Once the emotions are under control, the lawyers assist you in dealing with the legal issues. If there are significant financial issues, such as valuing a business, the lawyers may refer you both to work with a financial professional who is a neutral.
Some people react with concern over the cost of these professionals. This is legitimate. When I am asked how much a case is likely to cost, I reply it depends on the level of conflict between you. If working with the coaches and the other professions keeps the conflict low, the cost will be less than a contested case.
There are intangible benefits to keep in mind too. If Mom and Dad are working together effectively co-parenting their children, the toll on the children in particular, and the family as a whole, will be considerably less. If you are also managing the family finances in a thoughtful manner, the cost will be less. Most importantly, you will feel empowered to work with each other in the future.
I have never met a person who is pleased to be divorcing. Everyone comes into marriage hoping for a long, happy and productive relationship. However, when divorce does happen, it is best to approach it with the realization that the couple will have to deal with each other in the future. It is essential that they set the stage for a respectful future relationship during the divorce.