April 19, 2022

Using Collaborative Law in the Process of “Conscious Uncoupling”

You may have heard of the phrase ‘conscious uncoupling’ in recent years – especially in celebrity news. These two powerful words were made popular by Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin during their separation in 2014 and eventual divorce in 2016. The concept finds an alternative to the traditional divorce process that doesn’t involve a lengthy battle or harsh, damaging tactics.

Paltrow and Martin’s success with conscious uncoupling quickly became the talk of Hollywood. Paltrow’s company Goop, a lifestyle and wellness brand, published a piece explaining what it is and how it works. As it played out, conscious uncoupling also became a trend seen across the country with other couples deciding to split and go their separate ways. Paltrow explained their decision to separate by consciously uncoupling in an essay written for Vogue. She reflected back on the process and explained that she and Martin wanted to remain friends and also co-parent their two children with respect and kindness. She explains that while it was difficult and challenging at times, it was also rewarding.  

As a result, she is now seen as a resource for people around the world who want to divorce and co-parent without drama and hatred. In January of this year, she hosted a Q&A with her fans on Instagram and there were plenty of questions about her divorce process. In response to a question asking if she felt that you can really move on after divorce, she replied: “Oh, absolutely. It's a great opportunity to get ruthless with the truth of who you really are, what you want, and what you deserve.”

While conscious uncoupling isn’t an officially recognized divorce method in the court system, it’s a concept that is supported by non-adversarial divorce processes such as mediation, negotiation, and collaborative law. Here at Michael & Russell, we are proud to be the first family law firm in Wilmington, North Carolina that is focused on handling divorce matters through collaborative law. In addition to filing for divorce and dissolving a marriage, collaborative law can be used to determine any domestic matters such as dividing the martial estate-assets and debts, determining child and/or spousal support, creating parenting plans, and drafting prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.

It's amazing to realize that a collaborative divorce works just as well for a household in southeastern North Carolina as it can for a famous Hollywood couple. That’s because the process doesn’t focus on anything except the facts as it works to untangle the business of a marriage while going through the motion of uncoupling two spouses. While Paltrow and Martin helped to organically publicize the concept, it was actually created in 2009 by Katherine Woodward Thomas. As a licensed marriage and family therapist and coach, Thomas debuted the five-step process of conscious uncoupling in her book, Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After. She explains that a breakup or divorce doesn’t need to ruin lives, damage kids, or define futures. She lays out these five steps:

  1. Find emotional freedom
  2. Reclaim your power and your life
  3. Break the pattern, heal your heart
  4. Become a love alchemist
  5. Create your happy even after life

This brings us back to the importance of collaborative divorce as an alternative dispute resolution method in North Carolina. During this type of out-of-court process, we set you on the path to happiness and peace. By following the core elements, we are able to create an agreement that works for both spouses and also supports the wellbeing of their children. This includes establishing commitment to the collaborative process:

Committing to these core elements proves that even if the conversations get difficult or emotional, there is no threat of litigation. Both spouses agree that they will settle their family law matter using the collaborative approach. Additionally, in collaborative practice there are several steps:

  1. The parties sign a collaborative participation agreement describing the nature and scope of the matter;
  2. The parties voluntarily disclose all information which is relevant and material to the matter that must be decided;
  3. The parties agree to use good faith efforts in their negotiations to reach a mutually acceptable settlement;
  4. Each party must be represented by a lawyer whose representation terminates upon the undertaking of any contested court proceeding;
  5. The parties may engage mental health and financial professionals whose engagement terminates upon the undertaking of any contested court proceeding; and
  6. The parties may jointly engage other experts as needed.

Michael & Russell has a combined 25 years of experience with collaborative family law methods and approaches. Our clients who choose this method must be committed to communication, honesty, responsiveness, openness, organization, and respect. Most of these sessions take place in face-to-face roundtable discussions, so divorcing spouses must communicate with one another, along with their attorneys, to create a resolution that works for all parties. We follow the process as outlined by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and are dedicated to using collaborative law to help our clients consciously uncouple.

In addition to using this process to thoughtfully divorce with integrity and respect, there are various additional benefits of collaborative law. This includes less emotional strife between the parties, a faster resolution of conflict, and the prioritization of the couple’s children. In fact, in collaborative divorce, divorcing spouses can utilize neutral third-party experts to offer support and guidance in creating co-parenting plans. In addition, a child specialist can also be involved to work directly with the child/children. Then, the specialist will give them a voice at the sessions about their own needs and interests. You can read more about how collaborative divorce supports co-parenting efforts by clicking here.

Our Commitment to Collaborative Practice

Michael & Russell is led by co-owner and managing attorney Ashley Michael, a board-certified legal specialist in family law, and co-owner Ashley-Nicole Russell, an attorney, author, and expert in the topic of divorce culture. The two joined together to create a law firm that puts the needs of their clients first when dealing with family law matters. Our law firm believes that it’s essential to give our clients all of the information they need to make their own informed decisions on how to pursue their legal needs.

When you work with Michael & Russell, PLLC, you can trust that we are committed to serving you and your family with compassion and empathy. Through our New Hanover County office on Oleander Drive, we provide collaborative divorce and family law services to all of southeastern North Carolina. In addition, our attorneys can represent families across North Carolina with collaborative law processes that can be handled in a virtual setting.

Please reach out to our Wilmington-based legal team at 910-255-5722 to learn more about working with us for your collaborative divorce or family law needs throughout North Carolina.