Conscious Uncoupling and its Relation to Collaborative Law & Divorce

In 2014, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and musician Chris Martin divorced. Like many celebrity breakups, news of the couple’s separation and divorce made headlines across the country and beyond.  One particular detail elicited a reaction from many people: the phrase “conscious uncoupling.”  People were interested in hearing about this couple’s take on what the family looks like when going through a divorce.  In the years following the couple’s divorce, Paltrow and Martin have still been in the news for how they co-parent and interact with one another and their efforts to contribute positively to the culture of divorce.  Conscious uncoupling and collaborative divorce seek to redefine the construct of the traditional adversarial divorce. 

As is the case with many Hollywood divorces (and divorces in general), once the marriage has ended, the parties tend to go their separate ways. If there are children involved, the divorce process focuses heavily on developing a custody and parenting schedule. Paltrow and Martin approached the decisions that needed to be made with what Paltrow deemed conscious uncoupling.

home-1230034-238x300Conscious uncoupling has been around as a concept since the 1970’s.  It came into mainstream culture when Paltrow and Martin announced their split via Paltrow’s lifestyle website Goop. Much time can be spent discussing or thinking about what conscious uncoupling means and its implications. At the basis of conscious uncoupling (in this context) is the idea that divorce should be approached in an way where one is fully aware of the impact of the decisions on each member of the family. Further, conscious uncoupling embraces the idea that relationships in general are not necessarily meant to last forever and instead of putting pressure on oneself to keep a marriage together, the couple should focus on resolving issues in a healthy way. The resolution of these issues may come in the form of a divorce, as was the case with Paltrow and Martin. The idea is to treat the divorce process as a way to learn and grow, rather than confront it as a conflict.

The conscious uncoupling effect works to eliminate the idea that a divorce means a marriage has failed. Instead, a divorce is a way for a relationship to evolve. Paltrow has been very open about her own experience with the concept of conscious uncoupling, and still answers questions about what it really means for her and her family. In a recent interview, Paltrow mentioned that she and Martin remain extremely close. They spend a lot of time together and with their children at her home.

While every couple may not have the desire to remain as close as Paltrow and Martin, the overall premise of conscious uncoupling is a valuable one to consider.  Because collaborative law focuses on reaching a mutually beneficial agreement between the parties in a non-adversarial way, the process itself already has hints of conscious uncoupling. Working with an experienced collaborative professional (and having an experienced collaborative team) can also allow the parties to approach the divorce process in a realistic, respectful and open way, which in turn can result in a resolution that benefits the whole family.

daddy-reading-behind-1432160-300x231Although Paltrow and Martin’s divorce brought conscious uncoupling to the mainstream, it is not a Hollywood-only concept and its elements can be found in the process of collaborative law. There is a benefit to doing the right thing for the right reason.  The foundation of collaborative law is for parties to work together rather than against one another in resolving their issues.  In this way, parties can establish parenting agreements that are practical and have the healthy effect of allowing both the mom and dad to continue to be involved in the children’s lives.  The difficult decisions that need to be made about the division of assets and liabilities are approached in a cooperative, thoughtful manner rather than with a rigid, adversarial game approach.  The cooperativeness, based upon informed decision-making, leads to more practical, viable agreements.  To receive a handbook on the collaborative law process please use the “contact us” section on the home page of

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