What is Conscious Uncoupling? And Can it Help My Divorce?

Popularized due to its use by Hollywood celebrities, the term “conscious uncoupling” at its core involves two spouses or partners looking to separate with the least amount of damage possible; the focus is on a respectful way to end a relationship. Instead of the contentious child custody negotiations that might typically ensue, spouses who “consciously uncouple” seek to turn down the heat in a spirit of cohesion and co-parenting. It’s important to note that “conscious uncoupling” is not a legal term; it is not a legal process of separation or divorce. Rather, it is a set of guiding principles that can dictate which legal procedures you use to make arrangements regarding child custody and your divorce.

Is Conscious Uncoupling Suitable for My Situation?

Ask yourself, do you and your spouse put the needs of your children above all else? Do you sincerely believe both of you can act selflessly in the best interest of your children, cooperatively with one another, without hard feelings? Divorce is not fun or easy, and it is normal that you might have negative feelings towards your ex due to your history. However, the two of you have made a commitment to your children as parents. You must decide what you can do to protect the emotional well-being of your children without emotionally harming yourself. Civility is mandatory.  If you truly believe you are both strong enough to put aside any differences or ill-will, then perhaps conscious uncoupling is an option.

Benefits of Conscious Uncoupling

Conscious uncoupling is a philosophy about how to split and still be effective co-parents. Accordingly, if you are successful at consciously uncoupling, there are several benefits for all parties involved. Your children, as well as your friends and family, will benefit from a level-headed civil split. And of course, you will see a benefit in avoiding the drama and stress of traditional divorce.

Children need stability and a safe environment to properly develop. Conscious uncoupling lets your children continue to receive the love and attention of both parents with minimal disruption to their environment or the support systems they have relied on for so long. By continuing to co-parent, you are truly putting the needs of your child first.

Often, a divorce takes a toll on all those around the couple, including family and close friends. By reducing the tension, you are taking that weight off of your loved ones, while also reducing the distress you would normally have to endure, and avoiding long term trauma.

Another benefit of conscious uncoupling is that it makes it easier to avoid going to court. If two spouses are unable to come to an agreement on important divorce matters, like financial issues or child custody, then a judge must get involved. By consciously uncoupling, you are able to avoid the time, hassle and cost of such proceedings. Instead, your ex and you would create a separation agreement and address terms in a way that works best for both of you and your children

How to Consciously Uncouple

Okay, so you’ve determined that conscious uncoupling could work in your case, and you think the benefits make it worth pursuing. Great, but how exactly do you embrace this modern holistic approach to divorce?

  1. Mind Over Matter

First, it is all about the mindset from which you act, and react, during your divorce. Remain calm, and operate from a place of maturity on amicable terms. Remember to keep your focus on the well being of your children during divorce and as you continue to co-parent. You want what is best for your family and your shared interests. Goodwill is essential to successfully divorcing in a conscious and gentle way. Fairness, especially regarding financial outcomes, is another crucial aspect of a peaceful, calm divorce. Both parties should walk away from the relationship feeling secure and content with the arrangements and any conditions.

  1. Modern Custody Schedule

Create a more effective child custody schedule that allows both parents better inclusion in your children’s lives. The stereotypical arrangement where dad takes the kids for two weekends a month is both factually inaccurate, and ineffective. Instead, modern custody schedules can include what’s come to be known as the “2-2-5-5”: Mom has the kids on Monday and Tuesday; Dad has the kids Wednesday and Thursday; Mom has them Friday through Tuesday; Dad takes over for five more days, and then repeat. This schedule gives both parents opportunities to be involved in their child’s weekdays and the many activities and programs that occur.

  1. Slow-Style Divorce

Conscious uncoupling is all about intentions and thoughtful actions. Accordingly, some parents choose to separate slowly, instead of abruptly dismantling the family structure overnight. To this end, a parent moves out, yet the family may continue to share dinner or vacation together. This may be especially useful for younger children who are unable to grasp the concept of divorce. North Carolina requires that a divorcing couple live separate and apart for one year before either party can file for divorce.  Taking a slower approach may prolong the establishment of an actual date of separation.

  1. Nesting

Some parents go even further, taking the unusual approach of “nesting”. Nesting is a term for when two parents separate but maintain the same family home. Instead of creating a schedule for the children to visit the parents, the parents create a system where each one takes turns living in the home.  Children can benefit from this by avoiding the frequent packing of clothes and toys and travel.  Children can stay in their home, which also allows them to remain in their same school and maintain friendships.  While slow-style divorce may be a beneficial technique for transitioning, nesting is a lot harder to sustain and often has a very short shelf life. Nesting requires at least two homes for the parents, but forces a shared living space.  Most nesting arrangements only last a few months.

  1. Hiring a Parent Coordinator

Lastly, consider hiring a parent coordinator. A parent coordinator is a therapist or attorney that acts as a mediator between parents regarding minor issues. Parent coordinators can be especially helpful for parents with hectic work schedules. Think of a parent coordinator as the efficient tie-breaker, which allows you to avoid needing to go to court every time a disagreement arises. Parent coordinators can also create balance and accountability in the co-parenting system, allowing both parents to care for their children and keep any negative emotions to a minimum.


Put Your Agreement in Writing

There is one final but important point that needs to be addressed. If you and your spouse are committed to protecting your children and the two of you are emotionally prepared to be amicable with each other, you may want to try conscious uncoupling.  Documenting your terms and schedules in a separation agreement is highly recommended.

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