While Collaborative Divorce began in the United States in 1990 when Minnesota family law attorney Stu Webb declared that he would no longer take any new litigated cases, it has spread throughout the world to provide spouses with a private, respectful method to separate.
One such place that it has spread is Israel, where a practice group named “L’Hitgaresh B’Shalom” based out of Tel Aviv is teaching Israelis how they can constructively restructure their families. L’Hitgaresh B’Shalom roughly translates as “The Peaceful Divorce,” “To Divorce in Peace,” or “Divorcing Peacefully.” In a region that is oftentimes in the midst of physical battles, it is amazing that there are professionals who are attempting to insulate families from the destruction of court battles.
The following excerpt is taken from L’Hitgaresh B’Shalom’s website to describe collaborative divorce in Israel:
A team of Collaborative Professionals, made up of legal and mental health experts, guides the parties to a mutually agreeable divorce settlement. Given that the outcome will impact lives long after the divorce is final, the goal is to help both parties make thoughtful and proactive, rather than emotionally reactive decisions.
Collaborative Attorneys represent each party in negotiating the terms of the divorce, collaborating with the other party’s attorney and the professional team to identify and address the needs of the family unit. The attorneys commit not to represent the parties should the divorce proceedings go to court, ensuring that all are focused on the success of the process.
Divorce Counselors include family therapists and psychologists, whose role is to help the parties communicate more effectively and deal with stress or other emotional issues that may create impasses. Therapists also fulfill critical roles as Child Experts in representing the interests and needs of the children and serving as parenting guides and coordinators.
Each spouse selects a Collaborative Attorney to serve as their personal legal representative, and a Divorce Counselor to serve as their emotional and communication advisor. A Child Expert is typically engaged to provide neutral analysis and advice. All of these professionals are specially trained in collaborative methods and procedures, enabling the family to benefit from their combined practical insights and intervention.
Collaborative Divorce leaves the parties in charge of their own resolution and destiny. The Collaborative Team suggests and provides creative and appropriate options, solutions and compromises, taking the children’s interests into account. The parties decide the terms of their divorce, not the lawyers or judge. When the terms of the agreement are reached, the Collaborative Team translates the parties’ decisions into a legally-binding agreement.
Collaborative Divorce is substantially less costly than going to court, and is unique in being fully focused on the quality of life and ongoing communication of the family members. The professionals function as a single integrated team, sharing information and insights to save time and money and promote the well-being of the couple and children.
“Divorcing Peacefully” is based in the Tel Aviv-Sharon region, and includes two therapists and an attorney who are native English speakers — all living in Israel for over 25 years.
You should note that the “model” of collaborative divorce used in Israel differs from the most common model used in Florida. Here, each spouse has their own attorney, but there is usually only one “Divorce Counselor,” who we call the Neutral Collaborative Facilitator, whose job it is, among other things, to help parties focus on the future rather than the arguments of the past and teach them to communicate in a way so that they can respectfully resolve parenting and other issues even once the divorce is finalized. Further, there is oftentimes a neutral financial professional who streamlines the process of ensuring that each spouse can make an informed decision on financial matters, provides options on support and distribution of assets and debts that are specifically tailored for the family’s needs, and helps ensure that both spouses are on firmer financial footing once the divorce is finalized.
Adam B. Cordover is president of Next Generation Divorce, the largest collaborative practice group in Florida and one of the largest in the world. Adam is also a graduate of the inaugural Leadership Academy, sponsored by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.