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The Collaborative Divorce

Can you have a collaborative divorce? Collaborative law is luring thousands of lawyers and their clients away from the court system. Why? What is collaborative law and why are so many people flocking to collaborative lawyers? How do you know if collaborative law is right for you?
Justice Brownstone interviews two of Canada's most prominent collaborative law lawyers, Trudi Brown and Robert Klassen, to give an insight into the collaborative law process as an alternative to court.

Category: Episodes

Tags: collaboration, collaborative-divorce, divorce, robert-klassen, trudi-brown

By Family Matters - September 21, 2010


  • Harold Potter said

    Alison, the show is about parents working collaboratively to develop co-parenting relationships after separation. You are talking about something completely different: child neglect. The child protection episode of "Family Matters" will deal with that topic. We must all accept the reality that a very high percentage of couples with children do break up - and no one is going to change that. So if that is the reality, then we must look for non-confrontational, non-conflictual ways for children to have 2 happy, healthy homes where there used to be one. Get real !!

  • Alison Beil said

    I think the notion of "collaborative" divorce is a crime. Children need a stable home, and two parents, and the notion of "sharing" children as if they were pieces of property is inhumane. I am a teacher and I am disgusted with the shameful disrespect of small children's rights and needs that I see when their parents shuffle them back and forth between unsanitary living conditions, rarely even feeding them properly, while the spend their earnings on drugs, booze, and utterly unnecessary entertainment, instead of on providing them a safe and secure home.

  • Sandra Silve said

    I absolutely love this episode. It is the most informative educational tool out there to explain collaborative law and should be required viewing for every separating couple. Bravo to Justice Brownstone and everyone at Family Matters.

  • Alison Beil said

    Justice Brownstone and his guests appear delusional to me. If they actually were social workers, they could see some of the conditions the parents they talk to live in. They could see that they are unable to parent because they can not even afford to live responsibly for themselves, which is the reason no banks would give such people loans to buy a home, and why they don't have any valuable property to split, and only "split up" the privilege of baby-sitting children, depending on government subsidies and education to feed their kids.

  • Alison Beil said

    Joelle Adelson - your assertion that collaborative divorces work well is nice, but merely hearsay. It's not supported with statistical evidence or longitudinal qualitative conclusions. You link my name with a notion that I am naive - and reveal your own reticence to offer real evidence. Marriage is a collaborative life process - originally instituted in law to be child-centered or "till death do part". The privilege of marital confidentiality, was purposed to exclude intervention by lawyers, between spouses, except where evidence of violence or neglect was found. Traditional marriage supports the procreation, maintenance, and continuation of life. It was not purposed to support alternative sex choices, changes, and experimental research on human beings as involuntary subjects. The sort of experimentation that was deemed war crimes during WWII, is now being done legally under new marriage laws and some "health care" policies. No kind of human relationship is legal, that experiments on persons without their consent. Thus the contention that babies in utero, are not deemable persons, even if they could survive outside the womb, if wanted. <br /><br />Do you know how many of the 50% of women with young children who are divorced, really wanted to become single mothers? Do you know how many of them enjoy cooperating for the care of their children with their father's new friends of either sex? "The Divorce Culture" by researcher Barbara D. Whitehead, is only one of many longitudinal studies revealing that adult children retain many scars of emotional and physical wounds, from being treated as though they were "naively" interfering, unwelcome in either parents' relationships external to the marriage. The reality caused by adult greed, has always taken it's toll most horribly on children. Some parents are able, and well served, being employed in locations far distant from their spouse and children. To have quality "family time" however, does not necessitate two homes, nor "family units" in jails. It necessitates law reform and labour standards with wages sufficient to raising children in two-parent households, and allow both parents some autonomy as well. Children are expected to share toys, clothes, and even beds, and parents can also share their assets and resources collaboratively, to meet each others needs, without being unfaithful or unchaste, if paid sufficient income for their work. The "divorce culture" thrives, due to applied use of psychology, promoted via media, in which unrealistic dramas are purported to be "normal" reality. Laws have for generations enabled husbands and wives to work as business partners. But when the law respecting marriage, changed from that of respect for children's natural biological rights, to one of respect for "same sex" marriages, capital gains realized from collaborative work of heterosexual child-producing unions, was lost from children's rights to contest wills, and potentially given to "same sex" partners. As lawyers explain, while taking whatever they can, collaborative divorce is deemed a lesser of two evils. With inheritance laws thus challenged, polygamists are also challenging the criminal code. However economical, Revenue Canada changes its rules every year. Currently, the only "civil litigation fees" that may be claimed as "personal income-deductible" are some for separation of marital assets. That, I'm sure, is why divorce so often occurs only after family violence. <br /><br />Harold Potter - this is reality - money does not grow on trees, and people do get hurt when they are assaulted. Most people do not appreciate having their earned and saved resources extorted from them as tax - particularly when the use of public funds is apparently not serving the greater good. Most people would rather be the beneficiaries of privileges like pensions and benefits, than the contributors to those needs for others. Most people do not want to confer their own benefits or privileges to persons who have been convicted of crimes - especially the crime of negligence to provide support, and essential care of children. In uncontested civll divorces, such evidence is not even collected for public records. It may exist, but is not retained in courts if a divorce resulting from the "difficulties" does not take place in court. <br /><br />Population factors in economics, as demand for supply of essential goods and services. Human traffickers, and various other sociopaths recognize profits by exploiting human beings for involuntary experimentation. First - the myths of "safe sex" and artificial birth control using cancer-causing hormones, next abortions, and then - legalized euthanasia. That's reality. Do you really believe there are so few people willing to remain chaste and childless? Do you think there are no other ways to contribute beneficially to society? Where is it written into reality that adults "need" to be sexually active, marry, have children, and divorce, even before all their children mature to be adults? Have any "collaborative divorce" programs been subjected to research by social scientists? I have yet to read a comment from satisfied clients on both sides or in the middle. What I hear, is sorrow from the children adrift in the middle, and both parents who are malcontent with "reality" they failed to achieve, and deem themselves "forced" to accept.

  • Alison Beil said

    Sylvia,<br />How many children do you think "love" Justice Brownstone's "collaborative" idea of divorce? To my knowledge, most of them think divorce is OK, as long as they don't have to fight off step-siblings to get one parent or the other to give them whatever they want. Divorce does not teach children to take turns, be remorseful for wrongdoing, or apologize. Anthropologically, divorce has always created egotistical tyrants. It may be socially acceptable, but it is not morally acceptable - not for children. You might not enjoy watching or listening to Catholic teachings on Divorce and annulments, but there are many better programs available.

  • Alison Beil said

    Mina, thank you for your comments. I think you'll agree with other concerned Professionals and even politically minded leaders focusing on family matters that many important and related issues of life and well-ordered society stem from the fundamental unity of marriage and family. I also suspect you may be reflective enough in your thinking to consider that the "fact" Bill Gater stated above, of at least 40% of couples (mostly middle class) in North America breaking up, may be a low estimate. However, if as Bill says, spouses can find ways to give their children two homes instead of one, I think spouses can also find a way to put aside their anger and resentment towards each other sufficiently that they may admit for the benefit of their children that neither is a "perfect" parent and that faith, hope, love and mercy by forgiving mistakes is necessary in any life-promoting human relationship. I suggest that it is adults responsibility to be forgiving for children's sake - not the other way around.

  • Bill Gater said

    I agree 100% with Mr. Potter. Alison is the one who seems delusional. The fact is that in North America, at least 40% of couples (mostly middle class) break up, and they have to find a way to put aside their anger and resentment towards each other so that they can give their children two homes where there used to be one. Justice Brownstone is to be commended for having the guts to go online and educate the public in such a useful, compelling way. His book was good but his talk show is even better. I anxiously await more episodes of this terrific public education show.

  • Joelle Adelson said

    Unfotunately there are people like Alison in the world. Narrow focus, sadly naive and seemingly unaware that people live in many different circumstances, and that there are different ways of doing things, some of which really work well in an unfortunate situation. But as you mention, Bill, that unfortunate situation (separation) is not going to go away. So we may as well deal with it in a way that IS child-centred, that is focussed on developing communication between the parents and in some cases actually improves the parenting skills and the relationship between the parents and the children. I have seen the collaborative process work and work well.

  • Tom Moulting said

    Whoever is moderating this chat forum should be blocking the writings of Alison Bell as they are insulting and offensive and do not reflect well on Justice Brownstone or "Family Matters". If Alison Bell's postings are not removed from this website I will stop watching this show.

  • Nancy said

    Actually Tom, many of her comments have not been approved. I will take another look to see if there are any others that should be removed. But we don't really like removing valid comments even if they are negative ones. But as I said, I'll take another look. Thanks for your concern.

  • Mina Vaish said

    As a family law mediator, I recognize the importance of active listening and respectful debate on issues and concerns in order to achieve understanding. The opportunity to exchange comments by these (obviously passionate) viewers is a great way to promote discussion on this topic.<br /><br />Allison- thank-you for your work as a teacher and for observing the impact of child neglect and possibly abuse by both separated/divorcing parents as well as married/common-law partners on children. <br /><br />To focus on the discussion at hand, perhaps you would agree with me that some portion of marriages with children will inevitably end in separation and divorce? The question is how to best support families who are going to separate or divorce, and who need to make arrangements to financially and physically care for their children. The "how" is the question being posed in this episode, not the "why". <br /><br />Although each option has its own merits and detriments and should be considered on a case by case basis, the collaborative method has indeed been successfully utilized to promote children's needs and rights, to reduce conflict, and to promote co-parenting.

  • Alison Beil said

    Hazel wrote: "Our families do not belong in the legal system at all". I disagree, because we all need health care, public safety and security. Air, water, and blood born diseases do not respect "family" boundaries. In due regard to recent flu epidemic threats and natural disasters, it must be acknowledged that Chief Medical officers can if necessary exert more power than any Judge or Government leader to impose quarantines. It should not be "legal" for anyone to avoid registering a live birth, any differently than the requirement to identify and register a death. In the work I have done as a Professional Counsellor, the single most contributing factor to marital break-up is not sexual or financial problems - it is crime. Sometimes it is children who admit the family break-ups and violence developed as apparent to them, due to "victimless crime" - that associated with prohibited substance and drug addictions - not alcohol or money problems. It has long struck me as very sad and ironic, that apparent racist bigotry was the motivation behind prohibition laws, such that still there is very little useful scientific research on the medical uses and risks associated with marijuana.

  • Hazel Lamarre said

    The feedback I have received on the collaborative law process has not been positive. The fact that lawyers are involved at all seems to be issue. The clients seem to enter the collaborative process with lawyers already in place, so the line of openness and cooperation in communcation has already broken down. Our families do not belong in the legal system at all. To survive a separation where the parents and children have been least affected emotionally and financial is to engage alternate services addressing the issues pre-separation. Since the primary reasons for the separations are financial and sexual the work with the families needs to start there much much earlier in the process before the thought of engaging lawyers is even considered. I speak from experience personally and professionally. I realize this approach would affect the legal profession, but our families need to get back to a time when we took responsibility for our family unit and treated it with the respect and decency that we had first intended. From what I can see families recognize that breakdowns are at a high rate, but having said that, are still desperate for a different model of support through this difficult time.

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