Divorce Trauma Akin to PTSD? Try Collaborative Law!

The Mail Online today (16 October 2020) tells the traumatic account of the 53 year old consultant from Telford called Sarah who was diagnosed with PTSD type symptoms following her divorce. Sarah says her body had been "catapulted into trauma mode" after experiencing her divorce. She felt in a perpetual state of terror. She says she is envious of anyone who can divorce amicably and that she had a terrifying thought that, if she and her estranged husband could not resolve their differences and the matter had to go to Court, it would cost thousands in legal fees. Happily Sarah is now managing her stress levels with the help of alternative remedies but she is stuck, with the Decree Absolute being delayed by lockdown, and struggling to reach agreement over terms of financial settlement with her husband. 

The online article suggests looking into a broader support network of family, friends and counsellors, but it does not mention collaborative law or any other form of alternative dispute resolution for couples going through relationship breakdown. Helen, another woman cited in the article, says the current legal system only fuels hostility and puts families in huge amounts of debt. Kirstine, another woman featured, refers to taking antidepressants and being unable to sleep for worrying. The message from these women's experience is "if you don't prioritise your own mental and physical health, the whole family suffers. So put your own oxygen mask on first".

What a pity none of these ladies had the opportunity of resolving their relationship breakdown through the collaborative law approach. For Sarah especially, in view of there being a group of specialist solicitors in Shropshire actively practising the collaborative law approach, it might have made all the difference.

Under the collaborative approach, couples meet (yes, even in COVID-19’s restricted times!) each with their collaborative lawyer for support, agree not to go to Court and sign a Participation Agreement to that effect. Through a series of face-to-face meetings, they work through their own agendas to agree the best outcome for their family as a whole in a non-confrontational, respectful fashion.

The couple have access at all times to a family therapist and can choose at any time to suspend their meetings, to work through issues affecting their children, or learn coping mechanisms for processing the grief of the relationship breakdown itself. Couples take ownership of their process, working at their pace and identifying the issues they want on their agenda. Experts in pensions, mortgages and financial planning can join the meetings to explain the best options available for the family and help them to find fair, tax efficient and cost-effective methods to divide assets and plan incomes post separation. Specialist solicitors advise on what the principles of divorce law are, how they apply to the couple’s circumstances and assist them in discussions leading to a mutually agreed solution.

These discussions can be as wide-ranging as the couple wish, to include arrangements for the children, how assets are to be split, how pensions and incomes are to be shared and even arrangements for pets. Nothing is off limits, it is the couple’s process. This removes the worry and anxiety as the couple sets the agenda, there is transparency of advice and they can come out of the process with a Financial Order, granted by the Court and their Decree Absolute, in a much shorter timescale than if matters had to go through the Court process, especially during COVID times. It is a fraction of the price of Court proceedings too.

Communication is promoted which makes co-parenting easier and the children thrive seeing their parents continuing to work together, often attending school events and relating to the in-laws just as happily as previously. 

I am a specialist family solicitor of 24 years and have been a collaborative lawyer for over 10 years and the collaborative practice has transformed my work for the good and I would recommend it without a shadow of a doubt to every client. For more information please go to www.shropshirecollaborativelawyers.co.uk