Conscious Uncoupling: a new spin on Collaborative Divorce?


When Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin last week announced their plans for “conscious uncoupling,” the term began buzzing throughout social media. It’s a term that’s new to many people even though the concept has been around for many years.


Better known as collaborative divorce, it is a process that offers the potential for dealing with issues in a gentler and more dignified way.

While the process is practiced informally today, it originated with a Minneapolis attorney who provided special training to lawyers. In fact, attorneys from our own family law practice participated, seeing it as a much better way to resolve issues between divorcing partners.

The formal collaborative process is available in more populous areas of Wisconsin, such as Madison and Milwaukee, but has not taken hold here. Nevertheless, our attorneys always assess whether family law issues can be resolved more collaboratively with the other party by sharing expenses and, where possible, settling outside of the court room.

Couples seeking collaborative divorces—or the more de riguer conscious uncoupling—voluntarily exchange all information and jointly engage such specialists as accountants, appraisers and therapists to help resolve complex issues. Instead of court sessions, clients and lawyers meet informally to creatively problem solve their agreement.

The collaborative process can be used for:

  • Separation and divorce agreements

  • Child custody and placement

  • Division of property

  • Spousal and child support

  • Non-marital relationship breakup

  • Modification of existing orders

The benefits to the collaborative process include avoiding court, minimizing expenses, increasing cooperation and decreasing stress between spouses. The clients share control since they direct much of the settlement rather than have a judge make decisions for them. Perhaps most importantly, the collaborative process helps children feel more secure since their parents continue to work together.

Couples employing collaborative divorce find there’s less fear and anxiety since there’s no threat of going to court. Through the formal version of collaborative divorce, you can’t go to court unless you have decided that you can’t work it out. Then lawyers for both clients must withdraw and new attorneys must be hired. Since people don’t want to start over, it encourages them to find a way to resolve it.

By Ellen Frantz, Partner, Johns, Flaherty & Collins, SC. For a divorce lawyer in La Crosse, call her at 608-784-5678.

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