When you hear about a celebrity divorce (or most divorces, in fact), you likely expect stories about vindictive behavior, public humiliation and scandal, and bitter court battles over money and property. But not every divorcing celebrity is Heather Mills — and not every divorce has to be a nasty fight to the finish.
Take the case of actor/comedian Robin Williams, who separated from his wife of 19 years last New Year’s Eve, following which she filed for divorce on March 21. The couple announced a couple of months later that they were getting a Collaborative Divorce — a relatively new method of alternative dispute resolution in which both parties (and their specially trained divorce lawyers) negotiate their divorce settlement in private, outside the courtroom, with a written agreement not to litigate.
“We will strive to be honest, cooperative, and respectful as we work in this process to achieve the future well being of our families,” the couple said in their divorce papers, as quoted by People back on May 6. “We commit ourselves to the collaborative-law process and agree to seek a positive way to resolve our differences justly and equitably.”
This isn’t the first time Collaborative Divorce has been brought up in the entertainment world, in the past year alone. The recent hit indie movie Juno mentions Collaborative Divorce, when Jason Bateman’s character has decided to leave his wife (played by Jennifer Garner). “They call it ‘Collaborative Divorce’. It’s apparently all the rage right now,” Bateman’s character tells Garner’s in the Oscar-winning screenplay by Diablo Cody. However, Bateman erroneously says that both spouses can hire the same attorney for their divorce.
In Collaborative Divorce, both parties and their collaborative divorce lawyers agree that, should the negotiations not work out and the couple decide to litigate, the lawyers must resign from the case. This motivates everybody to work out a settlement that everybody is satisfied with. The process often employs neutral professionals, such as a financial advisor and/or a child specialist, to offer their expertise. The emphasis is on full disclosure, looking out for the children’s best interests, and reaching win-win solutions, rather than on competing and trying to “defeat” the other party.
Williams, 56, married Marsha Garces Williams in April 1989. They have two children, 19-year-old Zelda Rae and 16-year-old Cody Alan.
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