Many times I am asked about the most distinct difference between collaborative divorce and litigation and why collaborative divorce can be better. Perhaps the most notable difference lies in the communication. More specifically, the amount of direct contact you have with your spouse during the divorce process and negotiation.
In litigation, it is not uncommon for you and your spouse to not see each other until you are quite literally two steps from going before the judge to end your marriage. Even when you do physically see your spouse, it’s quite possible that neither of you will speak directly to the other and that your attorneys will do all the talking. Collaborative divorce offers a much different and, in my opinion, more productive path.
Having a collaboratively trained divorce lawyer certainly improves the likelihood of cordial and productive discussion between divorcing spouses. Yet even in a collaborative divorce, there can be tension and hostility as issues critical to the future of both parties and their children are discussed. That’s why it’s essential to set up basic communications guidelines and procedures at the onset to ensure a respectful negotiation.
In a perfect world these guidelines and procedures are reinforced by a divorce coach who acts as a neutral facilitator during negotiation sessions. These individuals have special training so that they can quickly identify and react when things are said or done that might escalate things in a negative way.
In addition to what is said and how it is said, the divorce coach can guarantee that each party will have their opportunity to speak. This sets a protocol that will hopefully minimize either party interrupting the other or monopolizing the discussion.
Establishing process and setting the communications boundaries can have a disarming effect on divorcing couples. It downplays the acrimony and puts the focus on resolving important issues like education of the children, who gets the house, retirement assets, and more. It actually invites divorcing couples to share their feelings and to listen to their spouses’ concerns. Being able to step into your spouse’s shoes, even for a moment can result in a more thoughtful discourse during the course of the divorce.
What a divorcing couple may not realize is that their divorce is actually laying the foundation of their future relationship. This is particularly true when children are involved and ongoing communication is going to be required. With both parties respecting each other and the process, a collaborative divorce can build a working relationship that preserves the roles of parents and protects the financial interests of both parties.
Don’t get me wrong. A collaborative divorce is still the termination of a marriage and that can be stressful and difficult. But it can also mark the beginning of a relationship that can last and, for some couples, be productive for years to come.