The ways relationships begin and end have changed. Most New York residents would never have dreamed a few decades ago that the Internet could lead to relationships and marriage. Couples also had few alternatives when marriages ended. Divorces were traditionally adversarial.

Today’s divorce proceedings reflect couples’ desires to move away from conflict. Divorce negotiations may occur between spouses and attorneys in addition to collaborators, mediators and co-parenting consultants. Divorce options have expanded, largely to diffuse contentiousness for spouses and stress for the couple’s children.

In the old days, divorce involved each spouse hiring a lawyer whose job was to obtain the better settlement, setting up a win-lose situation. Some couples with no wish to compromise still travel that route, although many – especially parents — choose a calmer approach that takes the future into consideration.

Couples have begun to realize that divorce is a change, not an end to family relationships. Communication and cooperation must extend beyond a divorce decree for spouses bonded by children.

Mediators and collaborative law specialists now work with divorcing couples to resolve thorny issues. A settlement is the goal, but the methods to reach one include low-conflict negotiations, compromises and lasting agreements.

Spouses may also save legal expenses through mediation or collaboration. Hot-button issues that sometimes keep spouses arguing for years in court can be worked out in detail before a divorce decree.

Asset division, parenting plans and other issues are examined, discussed and resolved with the help of conflict resolution guides. The low-key, business-like approach to divorce takes the place of an emotionally-charged court battle.

Mediation and collaborative efforts sometimes fail, sending spouses back to square one with extra costs and effort.

Alternate divorce methods work when spouses cooperate. Of course, the reason many couples divorce is because they’ve lost that ability. Even the gentlest divorce methods can fail for some couples, whose best option may be an old-fashioned, but still-effective divorce.

Source:, “It’s ‘divorce season,’ but kids can be shielded by parents, legal system,” Kathy Hinson, Jan. 21, 2013