Conscious Uncoupling Is Just A Fancy Term For Divorce

There is a popular children’s book series where the main character (who is very fancy) frequently speaks in sophisticated phrases and then informs the reader, usually in parenthesis, the common definition of the phrase.  This book series came to mind when I heard the term “conscious uncoupling” bantered about in the news recently.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it was used by actress Gwyneth Paltrow to describe the breakup of her ten-year marriage with Coldplay frontman, Chris Martin.

Basically, the premise behind “conscious uncoupling”  is that each party takes responsibility for their own actions in the demise of the marriage and does not assign blame to the other.  In practice, this idea allows the parties to amicably resolve their differences for the benefit of their family, especially their children.  While Ms. Paltrow is using this phrase, she did not coin it.  In fact, it was first used by a therapist in or about 2010.  See more information about the concept by clicking here.

Unbeknownst to me, as a family law attorney, I have been “consciously uncoupling” couples for years.  I just call it divorce. After all, in most jurisdictions including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where I practice, the Courts discourage parties from assigning blame in divorce.  I consistently advise clients to look beyond the wrongs they believe they have suffered in the marriage because Courts do not allow for revenge or retribution.  Instead, the focus is usually on the basic economics of the matter and the best interests of the children.

Moreover, Ms. Paltrow in her need to “consciously uncouple” is no different than the average person getting divorced.  Parties usually have the best of intentions at the outset of the matter.  They don’t want their children to be harmed in divorce, and they usually want only what is fair in terms of a financial outcome.  Nevertheless,  there is usually a reason why parties divorce, and if they were able to agree on everything, then they would stay married.  These differences in opinion and outlook often cause the animosity and fighting that make divorce a dirty word.

While it is unfortunate that Ms. Paltrow and Mr. Martin’s marriage has reached the breaking point, there is always a lesson to be learned from the celebrity divorce, or “uncoupling.”  In this case, we can understand that celebrity couples, like average couples, no matter how fancy they phrase it, want nothing more than an amicable parting of ways and the best outcome for their children.

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About Family Law Focus
The Family Law Focus blog provides highlights, updates and insights on complex family disputes including divorce, division of property, and alimony; child and spousal support; child custody; domestic violence; pre- and post-nuptial agreements; name changes; and adoption or termination of parental rights.
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The Editor

Attorney Jennifer A. Brandt, chair of Cozen O'Connor's Family Law practice, has represented a wide variety of clients in hundreds of family law cases in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Jennifer is a regular legal commentator on national and local television outlets such as CNN, Fox New Network, HLN, MSNBC, Fox29, ABC News, NBC and CBS and frequently writes and contributes to articles in numerous publications, including the Huffington Post, Fox, The PhiIly Post,,, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Business Journal, the National Law Journal, and Main Line Today magazine.
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