David watches through the large picture window as his son Alex puts the car into reverse and pull out of the driveway, heading off to practice. He smiles with pride, thinking about his son’s promotion to a starting position on the school basketball team. It briefly reminded him of his own joy being chosen as a starting forward for his team in high school.
Turning from the window, David looks through the formal living room to the kitchen dining area where his wife Lisa is sitting.
Dark hair hangs across the side of her face, partially obscuring her features as she focuses intently on the book in front of her. A cup of coffee sits steaming near her right hand, waiting for her to take the next sip.
David steps towards the kitchen, picking up his brief case, which seems heavier for the papers it holds. He knows there will never be a good time to talk to her about this but with Alex being set for the future, he feels better pursuing it now.
He briefly wonders what happened to them, where did the relationship go. But the thought is idle as he sets the briefcase down on the chair, clicking it open. The time for wondering has passed.
“Hey Lisa, do you have a second? I want to talk to you about something important…”
About David and Lisa
David and Lisa have been married for 17 years. They have one son, Alex, who is 16 years old. They moved to Scottsdale from Minneapolis when Alex turned 7 because David was tired of Minnesota winters. Both their parents are now snow birds but they have no family living in the Valley.
Lisa is a practicing Lutheran but David has always been indifferent about religion despite having grown up in a religious household in Minneapolis. Still, David has always made sure that the family attended at least Christmas and Easter services, otherwise he was content to let Lisa attend church when she wanted and only went occasionally when she insisted.
David is a Senior VP of Sales at a Phoenix-based manufacturing firm where he’s worked for the past 10 years. He was hired directly into the position after leaving his last firm in Minneapolis. He served on the board for his son’s charter school and enjoys playing golf on Saturday mornings with his buddies.
Lisa started out as an office manager for a local dental practice but left it to pursue her passion of photography. She has been an independent photographer for the past 5 years, primarily doing family portraits. It isn’t a full time job and doesn’t pay as much as being an officer manager did but she loves it and it gives her the flexibility to be a part of Alex’s life.
Over the past 10 years they’ve built a circle of friends. For David it’s primarily driven by the people he works with and for Lisa it’s the people at her church. David participates in some of the church community events when his wife asks but it’s not an important part of his life. They have a few couples that they spend time with together.
In the past several years David has felt that Lisa has become more distant with him as she more actively pursues her faith. He doesn’t understand her interest and can’t relate very well. The result has been frustrating for David who also saw a significant decline in their sex life.
It hasn’t helped that one of the newly hired women at his office has been displaying interest in him. And while David hasn’t pursued anything with her yet, he’s come to the realization that there’s really nothing left for him in his relationship with his wife. And now with Alex leaving, David sees that this might be an opportunity to start his life over and enjoy the rest of his life experiencing the passion and excitement he deserves.
When it comes to divorce, David is concerned about his long-term relationship with his son. He’s seen so many other people become alienated from their kids during the divorce and doesn’t want that. David also knows that Lisa could become very difficult if he divorces her and he doesn’t want to make it any harder than it has to be. Add in the fact that he’s built considerable assets over the past 17 years, he doesn’t want to put that all in jeopardy.
For her part, Lisa has noticed that David has become more easily frustrated with her and doesn’t seem to want to talk to her about anything important. She understands that David has been alienated by her involvement in the church but doesn’t really get why. Lisa’s friends have told her to be aware that David might be considering a divorce because they’ve seen similar behavior from other husbands before they were told.
Lisa doesn’t want to get a divorce, she’s hoping that once Alex is out of the house, that perhaps she and David could work things out. She also recognizes that if David does want a divorce that there’s very little that she can do to stop it.
If it were to come to divorce, Lisa wants to make sure that David acknowledges her contributions during the marriage. She worked full time, took care of their son, and helped her husband during the difficult periods of his life. Lisa feels like she deserves something, especially now that she has her photography business and it isn’t currently paying the bills.
Why Collaborative Divorce Works
With Alex in his junior year of high school, custody and visitation remain primary concerns for David as a part of the divorce process. He’s concerned about disrupting Alex’s life while he finishes these last two years of school, especially now that Alex has so much that he’s looking forward to, it’ll be important that he and Lisa work out an arrangement that doesn’t hurt him during this critical time before college.
David wants a divorce outcome that is as painless as possible for him and he isn’t looking to create any hardship for Lisa. He understands that he’ll have some responsibility towards her, especially since her business isn’t self-sustaining. David is willing to consider some sort of spousal maintenance to help her out but wants there to be a definite end to it. He doesn’t begrudge Lisa anything she might be due but he doesn’t want to carry her forever.
Lisa wants a divorce outcome that spares her the embarrassment of a public, ugly divorce. Her church community is important to her. A divorce will be bad enough. Having it be in the public eye would be even worse. She wants spousal support. She also wants ongoing medical coverage since she won’t be able to afford insurance herself. Lisa would also like to keep the house, at least for the next few years while she figures her own life out.
By working with a collaborative team, David and Lisa will work with a financial professional that understands the unique challenges that divorce posts to fairly divide their assets, debts, and other long-term financial considerations. They also get the support they need to help them communicate more effectively with each other and Alex so that they can co-parent in a loving, supportive way.
It will also give Alex an opportunity to participate in the family discussion when working with the therapist. Even though he’s going to be an adult, seeing his parents come apart right when he’s about to start a new life at college, is going to be an emotionally difficult process.
Ultimately, for David, Lisa, and Alex, a collaborative divorce helps them focus on what is really important, which is making sure that even though David and Lisa’s marriage is ending, that their ability to stay loving parents to Alex stays intact.