By RONALD M. SUPANCIC The holidays herald a time of heightened stress and tension. With so many projects still to complete before the end of the year, executives may find themselves anxious and nervous. Family members may feel the ramifications. Unfortunately, this is the time of year when many people decide to end their marriages. Divorce is not an event. Divorce is a process the transition from being part of a couple to being single. It is a journey where one unit of two divides into two units of one. The goal of a healthy divorce should be to begin as two, end as one and still feel whole. This journey will lead the parties through an often treacherous and painful maze of transitions: legal, physical, emotional, financial and spiritual. If this maze is to be successfully navigated, then, in addition to attorneys, parties should enlist the services of other experts to assure that dissolution can become a key to wholeness, so that something new and extraordinary occurs. Collaborative divorce is a new model for conflict resolution in the area of dissolution of marriage. It is practiced by attorneys willing to support the belief that family is forever, therefore family disputes are best resolved outside of a courtroom, using collaborative strategies rather than adversarial methods like litigation. Such attorneys believe in and have been trained in non-adversarial dispute resolution. Through the dissolution process, they model for their clients a commitment to honesty, dignified behavior and mutual respect. They use disagreement between the parties to find creative solutions in order to reach collaborative settlement. Imagine a divorce in which collaboration replaces competition and mediation becomes the rule rather than the exception. The advantages of collaborative divorce are many. Sessions are held in private, keeping many details out of the public record. The clients, with their lawyers assisting, are in charge and make their own agreements, rather than giving power and control to the court. Such flexibility allows for more creativity with which to fashion settlement terms. Without the need to wait on lengthy periods for hearing or trial dates, the divorce can proceed in a timely fashion, saving huge amounts on attorney fees. Just as with the death of one partner, divorce requires that the family will naturally restructure itself. Yet for this restructuring process to be optimally healthy, professional help is often needed. Too often, lawyers are called upon to solve the client’s emotional and financial issues; yet, however well intentioned, attorneys have not been trained to do so. Such issues ought to be addressed by specialists in each field psychotherapists and CPAs as a collaborative effort. Through good planning and collaborative allocation of resources, CPAs and financial planners may successfully assist the family to conserve its assets to the advantage of both parties and the children. Imagine a divorce in which families use experts as part of a team to help them fix the problems rather than fixing the blame. Collaborative divorce is a movement among many of the helping professions such as lawyers, psychologists, CPAs and financial planners, as well as real estate brokers, loan brokers and others to assist a couple through the process of divorce. If a couple facing divorce, values emotional health and relationships, desires the best for their children and wishes to conserve family finances, the collaborative divorce process should be considered. Ron Supancic is an attorney, a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and past president and founding member of the Coalition for Collaborative Divorce. Located in Woodland Hills, Ron can be reached through his web site at www.ronslaw.com.