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A model for reducing divorce stress with amicable solutions

While no one goes into marriage thinking it may not last, California couples who decide to part ways may have some options for doing so amicably.

The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System conducted a pilot project, setting up the Resource Center for Separating and Divorcing Families in 2013. Leaders intended the center to be a model for improving the system of family law in the U.S. The IAALS described the project as "the first center of its kind in the United States to provide multi-disciplinary legal dispute resolution, therapeutic and educational services to separating and divorcing families."

The program, labeled the Honoring Families Initiative, reported dramatic results. Parents who participated in the out-of-court model admittedly came into the program "generally healthy." Acceptance required "cooperation between the parents," so those who sought the provided services - counseling, mediation, transition-support groups - accepted responsibility for their part in the process.

Still, the results convinced researchers that amicable divorce is easier on families. At the completion of the program, parental participants showed a decrease in all of the following:

  • Level of stress
  • Sense of anxiousness
  • Violent styles of communication
  • Depression

On the other hand, the report indicated those same parents increased in:

  • The ability to communicate collaboratively
  • The willingness to make shared decisions
  • The skill of resolving conflict peacefully

When surveyed, families described feeling strongly the process kept their children's best interest front and center, and many said they "learned about [their] available options... early enough in the process to make informed choices." In the end, researchers agree that "collaborative, interdisciplinary, out-of-court" processes benefit those who have decided to separate or divorce. 

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