Local Business Spotlight: Divorce with Dignity

Local Business Spotlight: Divorce with Dignity

Kristen Hanlon
Divorce with Dignity's Denise Foster and Cindy Elwell

Divorce with Dignity's Denise Foster and Cindy Elwell. Photo by Kristen Hanlon.

Divorce with Dignity is a network of divorce support professionals that was founded in Alameda in 1996 by Cindy Elwell. Divorce with Dignity is an alternative for couples wishing to divorce amicably and avoid the lengthy and expensive process of traditional divorce in which each party hires a lawyer and spends thousands of dollars. Over the years it has grown from a single office in Alameda to dozens of affiliates in California, Florida, Illinois and Washington. In addition to services related to divorce, the office also handles deeds, trusts, and conservatorships.

Elwell was inspired to start Divorce with Dignity because of her own life experiences. “I felt like I was going through a dark tunnel,” Elwell said of her second divorce. “It took me four years to find an attorney I could trust.”

After several years and thousands of dollars spent, she and her ex-husband “ended up hating each other for quite a while. I thought, 'There has to be a better way than this,' and while taking Stephen Covey’s training ‘First Things First’ the idea of Divorce with Dignity came to me. My background was in accounting, so I went back to school and became a legal document assistant.”

Elwell started the company out of her home, and then moved to a small office in Ballena Bay. In 2009, she moved the office to the Harbor Bay Business Park.

Paralegal Denise Foster recently joined Divorce with Dignity-Alameda to take over the day- to-day operations of the office while Elwell transitions her focus to expanding the national network of divorce providers.

“We aren’t attorneys, and can’t represent people in court, but we have everything people need to do a complete divorce,” Foster said. “We cover the entire gamut - people who have had short marriages, long marriages, couples with and without children.”

One benefit of the Divorce with Dignity approach is expediency, Elwell said.

“Litigating can take years. Some people end up litigating longer than they were married,” said Elwell. “My vision was to help people achieve a divorce without litigation. Because of the current environment in the legal community, it’s a great opportunity. Many people are unhappy within the legal community, and it’s hard to get good jobs. Our network is open to attorneys, mediators, paralegals and legal document assistants - professionals who see the need and believe that divorce can be achieved without litigation.”

In addition to helping with the divorce process itself, Divorce with Dignity offers referrals to outside resources, such as Kid’s Turn, a nonprofit organization that holds support groups for children and their parents. When a divorcing couple has children, said Elwell, “it’s important for the parents to part as amicably as possible, because you’ll still be raising your children together. You’ll need to be able to work together.

"At one point, these parties had a great love for each other, so it’s good to work from that place and go forward," Elwell added. "It can be a very emotional process.”

Divorce with Dignity can be found at http://dwdignity.com/.