Get a Litigated, Collaborative or Cooperative Divorce

What kind of divorce will be best for you: 

Kitchen Table, Litigated, Collaborative or Cooperative?

Let’s start with where you are.  You Are Here:

1.  You got your Personality Strength Assessments (PSAs) © to see if both of you could live the life you need to live and stay married to each other.

2.  You worked with a financial planner to iron out the financial problems.

3.  You may have gotten counseling.

4.  You have both tried everything you could think of to save the marriage.

5.  You have decided that you just cannot save the marriage.

Even if you did not do all of these steps – that’s ok.  You are getting a divorce.

A divorce has two parts – a financial settlement and a parenting plan.  The financial settlement spells out how the family money will be allocated to the husband and the wife in the divorce. The parenting plan tells how the parents will share the parenting rights and duties after the divorce.

There are several kinds of divorce. You can get a kitchen table divorce, a litigated divorce, a collaborative divorce, or a cooperative divorce.

What are the different kinds of divorce?

A Kitchen Table Divorce

Divorcing spouses sit down at the kitchen table and decide together what the financial settlement and parenting plan will be.  Then they select an attorney who writes it up and presents it to the Court, and they are divorced.

This kind of divorce may be a good choice when:  A couple has not been married for very long, they do not have children, they do not have complicated financial assets, and both are committed to reaching an amicable agreement and moving on.  Although a kitchen table divorce is a matter of public record this is usually not a huge concern to spouses who select this kind of divorce.

A Litigated Divorce

You may know people who have gotten a litigated divorce with two attorneys who reach a settlement.  The husband and the wife “lawyer up” and each attorney gets the best terms of the divorce for the respective client.  It includes one or more hearings, mediations, interrogatories, and depositions.  It can include psychological evaluations, two financial consultants, an ad litem attorney for the children, and a parenting coordinator.  You can also have a jury trial.

The financial settlement and parenting plan of a litigated divorce settlement is a matter of public record.  You have NO CONFIDENTIALITY.  Think about that.  Would you like for anyone to be able to find out the moneys you received in the divorce?  Or the terms and times of your parenting time with your child?

No CONFIDENTIALITY creates another issue.  Since divorce is a major life change, a therapist can help you think clearly so that you can make your best decisions.  Your divorcing spouse’s attorney can subpoena your therapist’s notes about your private conversations.  And your therapist can be forced to talk about your private conversations in a deposition and/or in open court.   if your divorce proceedings go to a jury trial s/he can be put on the stand and be forced to give testimony and reveal what you said in strictest confidence.

Can a divorcing family work with a neutral mental health professional who cannot testify in court?

Yes.  Your litigation attorneys can write a Rule 11 (an agreement that your attorneys make) to get the Court to order a parenting coordinator (pc).  Mom, dad and the child can talk confidentially to a pc at any time.  S/he cannot be forced to give up notes from anyone’s private conversations or be forced to testify about what you told him or her in strictest confidence.

How does a parenting coordinator help the family?  Mom can talk with the pc by herself.  Dad can talk with the pc by himself.  When both mom and dad agree to talk with each other they can talk with each other in the pc’s office.  And the children can talk with the pc or someone that s/he recommends.

A Collaborative Divorce

In a collaborative divorce both attorneys and the divorcing couple all meet together. This is the collaborative team.  One important advantage:  Everything IS confidential – financial settlement, parenting plan, therapist sessions, and collaborative meetings.

A blessing in a collaborative divorce is this:  Both attorneys and both spouses seek a win-win agreement for the husband and the wife.  Kids get parents who are looking for ways to divorce peacefully instead of dukeing it out.

A collaborative divorce can have two more professionals who act as neutrals – a financial consultant (fc) and a communications consultant (cc).  The fc reviews all the financial data and suggests options about how to make the best use of the family money in the financial settlement.  The cc is a licensed mental health professional who does for you what the parenting coordinator does in a litigated divorce – and helps you structure the parenting plan.

About the financial consultant:  Check to see if the financial consultant is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA).   These certifications are your assurance that this professional can offer both attorneys a full range of options for the financial settlement.

About the communications consultant:  Check to see if the communications consultant is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a parenting coordinator (pc).  The LMFT licensing board is your insurance that s/he meets their standards for knowledge about marriage and families.  Not all communications consultants are approved parenting coordinators.  Dr. Knolle is  an LMFT and a PC and served on the Texas Association of Marriage and Family Therapists Task Force that recommended guidelines for the practice of parenting coordinators in Texas..

How are decisions about the parenting plan and the financial settlement made?

A number of collaborative meetings take place until everyone has agreed on the terms of the parenting plan and the financial settlement.  If tempers flare in the meeting about the parenting plan or some emotional concern the communications consultant can call for a break and work out the conflict.  And s/he can meet with mom and dad together or separately later.

Or if tempers flare in the collaborative meeting about the financial settlement:   the financial consultant can call for a break and work out the conflict.   And s/he, too, can meet with mom and dad together or separately later.

Mom and dad meet with their attorneys separately at any time.

Advantages:  The couple saves money by meeting with only one professional to develop favorable options, and each spouse has time to consider these favorable options before the next collaborative meeting.

This kind of divorce may be a good choice when:  Mom and dad do what they agree to do and want to save the children from trauma more than they want to punish the other spouse.  Parents also must be willing to give up the drama of taking depositions, having a custody fight, and having a jury trial.  These litigation steps can be really painful for everyone including the children and be very expensive; but some divorcing couples want to experience the total litigation process anyway.

With a Collaborative Divorce:  If mom and dad cannot reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce, the collaborative team can have one or more mediations to get an agreement.  If mom and dad give up hope of ever reaching an agreement on the terms of the divorce and yet still want to divorce, they must get other attorneys and start over on the divorce process.  This understanding often motivates a divorcing couple to come to terms of agreement and get the divorce collaboratively.

A Cooperative Divorce

You get a cooperative divorce with mediated settlement agreements.  You have a mediation to get each mediated settlement agreement.  A cooperative divorce has four professionals:  An attorney-mediator, a certified financial planner-mediator, a mental health professional-mediator, and an attorney.

A cooperative divorce is like a collaborative divorce in the following ways:

1.  Everything IS confidential here, too – just like in a collaborative divorce.

2.  These four professionals are neutral.

How are decisions about the parenting plan and the financial settlement made?

There are two stages in a divorce – (1) temporary orders for the financial arrangements and parenting plan and (2) financial settlement and parenting plan as they will be written up in the divorce decree.

1.  The mental health professional-mediator (mhp-m):  Works with mom and dad separately.  They work out as much of the parenting plan as possible before a mediation takes place.

2.  The certified financial planner-mediator (cfp-m):   Reviews all the financial data.  S/he also works with mom and dad separately.  They work out as much of the financial plan as possible before a mediation takes place.

This is a cost effective divorce process:  You do 1. and 2. with only one professional.

3. The attorney-mediator (a-m):  Conducts the mediation.  A mediation takes anywhere from four hours to all day.

A.             The cfp-m attends the mediation and brings the financial arrangements that mom and dad have worked out so far.

B.            The mhp-m attends the mediation and brings the parenting plan that mom and dad have worked out so far.

How many mediations are there?  There are three.

A.             First mediation:  To get the mediated settlement agreement on the temporary orders for the parenting plan and financial arrangements until the divorce is final.

B.            Second mediation:  To get the mediated settlement agreement on the parenting plan for the final divorce.

C.            Third mediation:  To get the mediated settlement agreement on the financial settlement for the final divorce.

4.  The attorney:   Files for the divorce.  Then s/he takes the mediated settlement agreements from these three mediations and writes them up into a divorce decree.  When the 60 day waiting period has passed s/he presents it to the Court to finalize the divorce.

This kind of divorce may be a good choice when:  Mom and dad trust each other enough that they do not feel the need to have a personal attorney to protect them from the other spouse.  Additionally, they  are comfortable (1) working out much of the parenting plan with the mhp-m and the financial arrangements and financial settlement with the cfp-m, (2) having the attorney-mediator conduct the mediations with the mhp-m and cfp-m also present, and (2) having the other attorney write up the divorce decree and presenting it to the Court to finalize the divorce.

Let’s Meet Rebecca and Edward Who Got a Collaborative Divorce

Rebecca still remembers her first day at work.  The corporate building looked enormous and intimidating as it gleamed in the sun. It was so different from the high school she just graduated from.  Was a navy blue suit really what she should wear her first day?  Would the people be nice?  Would they like her?  What would she actually do at work?  What would her boss be like?

She stepped off of the elevator, gave the receptionist her name, and sat down.  Right away Courtney came to get her and took her to talk with the boss.  He was nice enough.

After she had been there a month she realized that she could do this job.  Started to relax.  Then she got a phone call at home from someone she did not recognize.   “This is Edward Watson.  How are you doing tonight?”  She said, “I’m sorry, but I have no idea who you are.  Have we met?”

“Sure.  At work.”  Rebecca still drew a blank.  “When?” she asked.  “At the Our Corporate Concepts meeting.  I sat next to you – on your right.”  That Edward Watson.  He’s in middle management.  Somewhere.  He says, “There’s a play I think you will like at the Alcalde.  We’ll go to dinner first at the Ritz.  A week from Friday.”   “Ok.”  was all she could manage.  “Will 6:30 work for you?”  She heard herself say, “Sure.”  “Great,” he said.  “See you then.”

He is young for the position he has.  A guy to watch.  As they get to know each other she asks, “So why me?”  Immediately he says, “You have absolutely no idea how gorgeous you are.  And I am comfortable with you.”

Sooner than she was ready he asked her to marry him. First guy she dated out of school.  But he was so much ahead of anyone her friends were dating.  And she was comfortable with him, too.  Is this what love is?

They got married, and she got pregnant right away.  They agreed that she would stay home with Jason.  Then they had Jennifer.  He started bringing in larger and larger accounts.  More bonuses.  More client entertaining in the evenings.

One night he said, “Rebecca, this just isn’t working.  We need a divorce.”  What?  She’s did not give up that easily.  They went to a marriage and family therapist, got their Personality Strengths Assessments (PSAs)©, and did counseling.   The therapist looked at the PSAs© and wondered out loud, “Edward, why did you decide to marry?”

He hesitated.  “Nobody is going to like my answer.  I’m not sure I do.  My parents never had a really good marriage.  I don’t know why they are still together.  Rebecca, you are the most beautiful women I have ever seen.  Anywhere.   Still.  As I went up the corporate ladder my mentors told me that I had to think about getting married.  I knew they were right.   I figured that after we got married over time I would fall in love with you.  We had Jason and Jennifer.  I am crazy about them, but I never fell in love with you.  I am sorry.  This is a lousy thing to do to anyone.  But marriage is not for me.  I can’t really commit to anyone.  I feel trapped, and I need to get out.  I need a divorce.”

Rebecca did fall in love with Edward.  She is in deep pain and deep shock.  If he didn’t love her why did he tell her to quit her job?  Whatever is she going to do now?  What will happen to their children?

How do Rebecca and Edward get their best divorce?

They get a Collaborative Divorce.

Dr. Knolle gives Rebecca her Personality Strengths Assessment (PSA) © to understand her personality strengths.  Rebecca gives permission for her attorney and their financial consultant to see her PSA©.  She writes this explanation to help them work with her to get her best divorce.  She takes her PSA© to her attorney.  When you read her Test Results you will see that she has just handed them to her attorney so that he will know how to make the best use of her personality strengths as he helps her get her divorce.

Print out Rebecca’s Test Results so that you can look at them while you learn more about Rebecca.

Open Rebecca’s Test Results Here.

In the 12 years that they have been married they have amassed an impressive estate.   Rebecca needs the financial consultant to educate her about the investments and help her write a Budget.

Edward gets his PSA©, too.

Print out Edward’s Test Results so that you can look at them as you learn read more about Edward.

Open Edward’s Test Results Here.

How did the Collaborative Divorce go?

Really well.  Rebecca and Edward got a good Collaborative Divorce.  Edward decided to be generous and set aside money for Rebecca to get her college degree.  Her Achievement kicked in.  She loved school, and her first semester she got 15 hours of As. And a whole new set of college friends. The kids love that mom has to study, too!  Now they want to get grades as good as their mom gets.  And they pitch in and help around the house – they know she needs it.  Edward sees more of the kids than he did before the divorce.   Who woulda’ thought?  Amazing!

Here’s a short story about a Cooperative Divorce.

Mom and Dad are both well-educated professionals who have a lot of confidence and good sense.  They had already decided to divorce when their certified financial planner-mediator (cfp-m) referred them to the mental health professional-mediator (mhp-m) to get their PSAs© and do the parenting plan.

They are in their 50s and well established in their careers.  She works in financial services, and he is a medicine.  Neither of them felt that they needed an attorney to protect them from the other one. They agreed to share all financial information.  They worked out most of the financial settlement with the certified financial planner-mediator before the mediation.   And did most of the parenting plan with the mental health professional-mediator before the mediation, too.

There are usually three mediations, one each for:  (1) the temporary parenting plan and financial arrangements, (2) the final parenting plan, and (3) the final financial settlement.  They agreed verbally on the temporary parenting plan and financial arrangements – and kept that agreement – so there was no need for the first mediation.

What mediations did Mom and Dad have to get their divorce?

They had two mediations, one each for:  (1) the final parenting plan and (2) final financial settlement. The attorney-mediator (a-m) conducted each of these mediations.

During (1) the mediation for the final parenting plan:  the mental health professional-mediator went with the attorney-mediator to carry parenting plan offers back and forth between Mom and Dad while the financial planner-mediator stayed with the parent who just sent the offer to the other parent.  Everyone signed the Mediated Settlement Agreement at the end of the day.

During (2) the mediation for the final financial settlement:  the financial planner-mediator went with the attorney-mediator to carry financial settlement offers back and forth between Mom and Dad while the mental health professional-mediator stayed with the parent who just sent the offer to the other parent. Everyone signed the Mediated Settlement Agreement at the end of the day.

Then what happened?

The other attorney filed for the divorce and wrote up the two Mediated Settlement Agreements into a divorce decree. Mom and Dad signed it.  The  attorney took it to the Court with the Dad present, and the Judge awarded the divorce.

Mom and Dad used their PSAs© to Co-Parent.  Let’s see how.

Print out Mom’s and Dad’s Test Results so that you can look at them while you learn about how Mom and Dad use their PSAs to Co-Parent.

Open Dad’s and Mom’s Test Results Here.

Divorce can be really painful for a child – and s/he can get very upset.  With Mom and Dad high in Objectivity each parent remains calm and gets the facts about what happened.  Then since both are also high in Tendency to Read Feelings the child will see that the parents understand what worries him or her.

When a child has a problem how do the parents help him/her find the best solution?

1.  Mom is high in Theoretical Value so she comes up with several good possible solutions.

2.  Both parents are high in Friendliness/Agreeableness, Restraint/Seriousness, Thoughtfulness/Reflectiveness and Cooperativeness so they will give careful attention to considering ways to agree – and find them.

If anyone tries to bully the child Dad can use his high Aggression to teach him/her self-protection skills.

These personality strengths work together to help all family members adjust to divorce and focus on structuring their new lives.


If you want to consider getting either a Collaborative Divorce or a Cooperative Divorce:  You might want to glance at this Worksheet..

The Collaborative or Cooperative Divorce Worksheet©

Our goal:   Consider a Collaborative Divorce (or Cooperative Divorce) to benefit each family member – particularly the children.  Since you will always be sharing your children across all the years.

1.  Who do I know that got a Collaborative Divorce?   What about how they did that impresses me?

2.  Who do I know that got a Cooperative Divorce?   What about how they did that impresses me?

3.  If one of us is going back to work:  How important is it that I or my spouse get a college degree or other training to get or enhance a career?

About Religion and Spirituality

5.  On a scale of 1-10 how important is this to me?

6.  Will it help us to get the best possible divorce if treat my spouse like I want to be treated?

7.  For the sake of the children and other family members:  If I set a good example and commit to treating my spouse like I want to be treated do I think that my spouse would do that, too?

About Money

8.  What did I learn in my family about money?

9.  How are these beliefs influencing me as I structure the financial settlement?

10.  How do my thoughts about the following subjects influence how I construct the financial settlement?

A.             Saving money

B.            Borrowing money

C.            Our short term investments

D.            Our long term investments

E.            Our conservative investments

F.             Our moderate risk investments

G.            Our high risk investments

Discipline and Co-parenting after the Divorce

Sometimes parents have different beliefs about and methods of disciplining children.  When parents divorce:   Kids need to know what each parent’s House Rules are. Parents can put the House Rules in writing, put them on the refrigerator door, and email a copy to the other parent.

11.  Will I write down the House Rules, put them on the refrigerator door, and email a copy to my divorcing spouse?

12.  Do I want my divorcing spouse to write down the House Rules, put them on the refrigerator door, and email a copy to me?

13.  It can be a long time until all kids are 18.  Do I want to think ahead and discuss with the other parent what I want to put into the parenting plan that just hasn’t come up yet?  For example.  What do I suggest we do

A.             When a child is trying to play one parent against the other one

B.            About giving a child an allowance as a way to learn to manage money

C.            When a child wants to go to summer camp

D.            When a child wants a tattoo

14.  What else you would like to consider that is not mentioned here?

Can my spouse and I use our PSAs© to consider a Collaborative Divorce or Cooperative Divorce?


1.  Print out:  This case study and Rebecca’s and Edward’s PSAs© and Mom’s and Dad’s PSAs©.   Also print out the Get the Collaborative or Cooperative Divorce Worksheet©.  Scan them, and save them as a document in a folder named “Using (PSAs)© to Consider the Best Divorce for Us.”

2.  Go back to the Home Page to order your PSA©.  When you take your tests:  Think of yourself as you are when you are at your very best.


This website and Worksheet below is expert advice about how to use your PSA©.  For more expert advice you can take your PSA© and Worksheet to a counselor in your city.

Or you and Dr. Knolle can use your PSA© and Worksheet and strategize together in her office in Houston or Galveston, Texas or on the phone.  Email her at Contact Us to set this up.


You already learned a lot about how to use a PSA© by reading about Rebecca and Edward – and then Mom and Dad.   You know a lot about your current situation.

You can do this!


1.  To learn more about how to iron out financial problems to save the marriage and/or structure a financial plan so that you and your spouse make the best use of the family money:  Learn about Patricia Barrett at  She and Dr. Knolle often work together to get couples Collaborative Divorces and Cooperative Divorces.

2.  To learn more about how to use your PSAs© to adjust to divorce:  Go to the Home Page and click Adjust to Divorce©.

Ready to purchase your PSAs?