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Knoxville Area Psychological Association

Collaborative Divorce: A More Healthy Choice

Dr. Michael Sanders, PhD

Clinical Psychologist & 

Divorce Coach

COVID-19 has created problems and stress for everyone.  With cases on the rise, we have seen a dramatic increase in the incidence of depression, anxiety and domestic violence. Mental health professionals have seen a surge in calls from individuals, couples and families needing help.  Many family attorneys expect that there will be an increase in divorces in the near future.  Despite the efforts of counselors and marital therapists, some marriages cannot, and perhaps should not, be saved.  When the decision to divorce is made, how should a couple proceed? How can mental health providers advise their clients in choosing a divorce path that reduces, rather than inflames, conflict? Is a more “healthy divorce” possible for all concerned,  especially when children are involved?  The East Tennessee Collaborative Alliance is a non-profit, inter-disciplinary group of specially trained professionals established to help you or your clients experience a more healthy divorce.


Most divorcing couples only know about fighting each other in court, but there are better alternatives to litigation. Virtually everything that is filed in court is open to public scrutiny.  Litigation is an expensive, slow-moving process that intensifies the conflict as attorneys build their case for the ultimate courtroom battle. In litigation, the judge decides the future of the couple, based not on the uniques needs of the family, but following statutes and rules.  To do differently invites legal decisions that can be reversed on appeal.

Collaborative Divorce offers divorcing couple a completely different and more healthy path in restructuring their lives without ever going to court. It is a client-centered approach to divorce that relies on respectful problem-solving to reach a mutually beneficial agreement that is kept private.  The couple has the freedom to create a settlement that meets their family’s unique needs, rather than being limited by the law, as judges are.  There is a constant focus on the best interest of the children throughout the collaborative process.  Instead of the nightmares of family attorneys fighting each other, collaborative professionals work together to help the couple determine their own future.  After all, who is in a better position to determine the best interest of the family than the divorcing couple?

The Collaborative Divorce Team

Attorneys: Each partner is rigorously represented by an attorney trained to find common ground and solutions that actually work, rather than fan the flame of conflict.

Divorce Coach: A licensed mental health professional guides the team to work effectively together, much like a coach of a sports team.  Attention is paid to each family member’s emotional needs, guiding the successful restructuring of the family.  In cases with children, the goal is to prepare them to successfully co-parent after the divorce, thereby minimizing emotional damage to the children.

Financial Neutral: Often a Financial Planner &/or CPA  who examines the family’s finances to provide objective, unbiased financial counseling and help the parties plan for the economic realities of living separately.  Since money can often be a big source of conflict, the Financial Neutral can be a tremendous help in this area. 

Child Specialists are professionals who have expertise in child development and are uniquely qualified to attend to the needs of children. Child specialists are advocates for the children of divorce, and they function to keep the entire team focused on the children’s practical and emotional needs.

To learn if collaborative divorce is right for a family, contact an ETCA Divorce Coach at for assistance.

Be Informed about the American Psychological Association’s New Clinical Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Depression Across Three Age Cohorts 

The American Psychological Association’s New Clinical Practice Guideline for the Treatment Of Obesity and Overweight in Children and Adolescents

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