Those gossip magazines sold at the end of the grocery store aisle are full of salacious and juicy details about celebrity marriage splits. And who hasn’t heard whispers about the messy break up between neighbors, co-workers, or others in our lives?

While as many as one half of all U.S. marriages end in divorce, the days of the messy and public divorce may be over, thanks to a relatively new and increasingly popular movement in family law known as collaborative divorce.

Collaborative divorce is a form of alternative dispute resolution applied to divorce proceedings. Rather than assisting husbands and wives with fighting over who gets the dishes, the resort timeshare, or other marital property, attorneys in collaborative divorce play the more objective roles of “coaches” rather than litigators.

The focus in collaborative divorce, as the name implies, is to encourage the two spouses to work together to reach a mutually agreeable resolution to their union. Spouses who want to use collaborative divorce enter into an agreement in which they promise to conduct themselves in a manner which is constructive and fair and to act in the best interests of their children, if there are any.

First used by a Minnesota family law attorney in 1990, collaborative divorce has now spread from coast to coast and even overseas, where it is gaining popularity in Great Britain, for example.

But if the idea of getting two people who once loved each other enough to get married but now dislike each other enough to split up to play nice in a divorce sounds too good to be true, it may be. For sure, collaborative divorce is not for everyone. Some highly contentious divorces are still best suited for the old-fashioned way of having attorneys paid by the hour slug it out in court and let the best man or woman win.

But for those couples who agree to work together in a constructive and non-adversarial way to end their marriage on mutually-agreed upon terms, collaborative divorce may be just the thing.

You can read more about collaborative divorce and other related matters in LawInfo’s Divorce Legal Resource Center.