Effective Engagement in the Collaborative Divorce Process
For clients who are considering resolving their legal divorce issues in the Collaborative Law (Settlement) Process, there are helpful qualities they might consider bringing to their meetings with the collaborative team of professionals. These qualities not only support a successful negotiation but help ensure a continuing relationship with the soon to be ex-spouse. This is especially important if the couple wishes to remain friends or they have children whom they will be parenting together. The most effective collaborative clients bring the following qualities to the negotiating table:
They refrain from viewing their spouse as an adversary; rather they hold them as someone who will help problem solve the issues with them.
While understanding that the behavior of their spouse has an impact on them, they do not blame the other person for how they feel; and, they allow themselves appropriate boundaries to take care of themselves.
They avoid blaming, criticality, judgment, accusatory language and name calling. This negative way of relating can spiral the negotiation downward.
They refrain from rehashing the marriage history; the who did what to whom game. While the Collaborative Law settlement process may turn out to be therapeutic, it is not therapy and uncovering the reasons the marriage did not continue is not part of the Collaborative Law process. It is a present time, forward looking way of settling the divorce related issues.
They acknowledge that each spouse may have different emotional time tables in the divorce transition adjustment process; and, they respect the fact that the other spouse may need to go a bit more slowly or may have a greater need for more immediate closure. This does not mean neglecting one’s own emotional time table; it means also taking the other’s time table into consideration.
They think about solutions that are outside those that seem “normal”, and are open to as many options for settlement as may be brainstormed by the collaborative team. The question they ask is not whether an option is “normal” but whether it actually works.
In addition to honoring their own feelings and paying attention to what is important for them, the divorcing spouses listen to the feelings expressed by the other and acknowledge what is important for that person. Attentive listening and acknowledgement of how the other spouse feels and what they believe is important may be the single most important communication tool and, ironically, the one most likely to actually help achieve both party’s goals in the settlement process.
They understand that conflict may arise in the settlement process and are OK with having it out on the table, so it can be handled in a respectful and creative way. Some of the most entrenched impasses dissolve when conflict is openly discussed and normalized.
Divorcing spouses who relate in these ways have a high likelihood of a successful outcome in the Collaborative Law settlement process.