Essential Pittsburgh
3:57 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Conscious Uncoupling and Finding A Way to Divorce Without Courts

When the honeymoon is over and it's time to part ways, more couples are looking for a win-win approach to divorce.
When the honeymoon is over and it's time to part ways, more couples are looking for a win-win approach to divorce.
Credit Trevor Hurlbut / flickr

If you follow celebrity news, one story which made news last week was Gwyneth Paltrow’s divorce from Coldplay musician Chris Martin. The news was especially notable because of a term they used to describe the breakup - “conscious uncoupling.” The phrase raised eyebrows in the relationship counseling and divorce industries.

Paula Hopkins, a divorce attorney who specializes in collaborative law in the Pittsburgh area had never heard of conscious uncoupling until Paltrow’s announcement. But following the announcement, Hopkins found quite a bit of information about the term.

“In fact, this is a phrase that has been around for a while, but it does have its roots that perhaps marriage is serial. In other words, maybe people would be married in one marriage for 10, 20 years and then get a second marriage. And the idea that you can disentangle yourselves from these relationships more easily if you don't have the idea or the value that marriage will be a lifelong commitment.”

In looking at Paltrow and Martin’s breakup as an example of “conscious uncoupling” and Hopkins noticed something that relates to her line of work.

“She [Paltrow] does do something that we do in the collaborative process. And that is that she and her husband created a divorce story. A story about what they are telling people about their divorce and their divorce story describes more that they’ve been talking about this for a year, that it’s been very difficult, that they’re sad, but that they want their privacy protected and that they are looking to consciously uncouple as well as co-parent their children, who they identify as their priority, as it should be.”

The process of divorce can take a while said Hopkins, even in collaborative law. And when children are involved, it's important to remember that the parents and children are still a family.

“When you have children with someone, there is no one else in the world that will love those children as much as the other parent of those children” Hopkins said, “They have a family. Again it’s not the same as an intact family, one where the father and mother are married, but there is a relationship that goes forward as the parents co-parent.”

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