Once or twice a week, I receive an email titled something like this: interested in possible collaborative divorce. My response includes support for exploring a better way to divorce, an explanation of the team based nature of collaborative divorce, and a brief comparison of traditional divorce and collaborative divorce. I include an invitation for a free consultation and suggest looking at my website, my collaborative community’s website, (www.collaborativedivorcecommunity.com) and Wisconsin’s collaborative divorce website (www.collabdivorce.com). My explanations are succinct but thorough. The websites add valuable depth to the overview I provide. I’m not sure, however, that any of this really answers the question: what makes a collaborative divorce possible.
I’ve given this question much thought. I’ve done some research. I’ve walked with countless families through both traditional and collaborative divorce. Collaborative divorce is a transition. As with all life transitions, collaborative divorce is possible when you make it so. As in life, each person in collaboration is the most important person. As in life, each person in collaboration is the least important person.
In collaboration, you as a spouse give your spouse’s needs priority.
In collaboration, you as a parent give your children’s needs priority.
In collaboration, collaborative attorneys hold paramount the well-being of the entire family.
In collaboration, coaches and financial specialists serve and support the entire family.
How do you make collaborative divorce possible? You listen more than you speak. You focus on the future. You try to understand. You express what you need clearly. You hear what your spouse needs. You find a balance. You don’t blame. You don’t accuse. You assume each person is doing the best he or she can. You negotiate in good faith and trust that your spouse is doing the same. You strive for fairness. You give your spouse’s interests the same consideration you give your own. You are at peace with the fact of divorce.
If you are reading this, you are probably a spouse thinking about divorce process options. Actually, you are probably a spouse thinking about whether or not to go forward with a divorce. Most spouses I work with have struggled with the question “should we stay together or should we call it off” for years before reaching out to a lawyer. Likewise, most spouses I speak with are hoping they don’t end up with two lawyers fighting, two lawyers escalating family conflict, two lawyers wasting their family’s financial resources. The prospect of a better role for lawyers and a process that problem-solves rather than trouble-makes is a tremendous relief to spouses who ask me whether or not collaborative divorce is possible.
A collaborative divorce requires you to walk that narrow tightrope of taking care of yourself first while holding the needs of your family close. It is not easy, but it is possible.