In the late 80s and during the 90s divorce became big business. Couples looking to split spent lots of time and money hoping to wring the other person dry—and kill them emotionally in the process. As a result, people went broke, bitter feelings and resentment took over, and a generation of kids saw their parents battle it out with each other in court.
Then collaborative divorce took over, where couples resolved a divorce with a team of people, including lawyers, coaches to deal with psychological problems, parent planners for custodial arrangements, financial managers, and case managers who all worked together as a team to help sort through all aspects of the split. And yes you have to pay all these people.
But soon mediation entered the picture, as a tool to come up with a friendly divorce—if the couple is actually mature enough to handle it.
A way people could meet with a neutral person to resolve divorce and custody issues saves everyone money and a headache. And because celebrities like Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin have brought it to the public, it’s trickling down to non-celebs as a way to divorce without dragging it out.
“Celebrities started popularizing the idea of an amicable divorce,” says Peter Walzer, founding partner of Los Angeles based family law firm, Walzer Melcher. “It’s called the non-hostile divorce.”
“It came to my attention in 2012 when Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise looked like they would have a high conflict divorce because of scientology, and they were well known,” Peter says. “But they quickly resolved it in three weeks. That was a benchmark for the friendly divorce.”
“In 2014 when Gwyneth coined the term ‘conscious uncoupling,’ the media grabbed onto it, and people started to think, even wealthy people can have a friendly divorce and like each other after the divorce,” Peter says. “There were hundreds of millions at stake and they seemed to resolve it amicably.”
Peter says Angelina Jolie figured it out after starting out on bad footing, saying she “quickly got a handle on” her split from Brad Pitt, hiring smart lawyers and getting on the right track.
“This is a good trend,” Peter says. “People mimic what celebrities do. This is really how divorce should be resolved, people can use mediation, it’s a friendly method of working out the divorce.”
“Since the clients are the bosses they need to demand from the attorneys that they want to do it in a professional, friendly manner and not get out their anger or take revenge on their spouse,” he adds.
What about less billable hours for the lawyers when things are resolved so quickly?
“Although its does mean less money for the lawyers, clients need stop choose lawyers who are not going to resolve it in an amicable way,” Peter says. “The process of mediation has to be done with full disclosure of assets and income, it has to be ethical and professional. Many lawyers promote mediation now and resolving it out of court. There are always some bad apples who take advantage and we all know who they are. But we try to find the easiest way to resolve the issue.”
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