How do you rate a collaborative divorce?

image for collaborative divorceTelevision networks have the Nielson’s. Attorneys have Martingale-Hubbard and Avvo. Couples going through a collaborative divorce, however, act as their own rating service during the course of the proceeding and grades are based on whether or not both parties’ objectives/goals are being met.

Confused? Let’s take a step back. At the first meeting of a collaborative divorce, couples are asked to clarify their goals as to what they want to get out of the proceeding. These goals can vary depending on the person, the couple and their situation.

For example, the goal could be something very concrete and definitive: One spouse wants to come to a settlement that enables his/her spouse to remain in the family home while he/she retains a certain standard of living. In that scenario, the answer is rather black-and-white and comes down to a division of assets that make that possible.

Another goal/objective could be something a little more difficult to define. For example, one spouse’s goal could be to create a nurturing environment for the children that mitigates any tension or awkwardness at family occasions where both parents could be in attendance (e.g. sporting events, graduations, weddings, etc.).

The number of goals each spouse states can also vary. For some it may be one or two. Some may have a dozen. It depends on the person.

As negotiations proceed, both spouses need to be cognizant of how the developing agreement meets their goals and objective. In fact, it’s a question the collaborative divorce attorney should be asking each spouse before issues are agreed upon.

Of course, the tricky part of this “rating” system is that you really don’t know how things will turn out after the divorce is finalized. The financial agreement may afford one spouse to remain in the family home with the children for awhile. Circumstances can always change.

For the more nebulous goals and objectives like creating an environment where both parents can attend “family events”, there are also no guarantees. Both spouses could agree to a protocol for family events. That might work out fine, it might not.

In a collaborative divorce, the goals drive the proceedings. If what one spouse proposes doesn’t meet the goal of the other spouse, it’s his or her job to say so.

Does that involve some compromise? Of course, most negotiations do.

Does that mean things turn out exactly according to those goals and objectives? Probably not.

Yet by letting the goals and objectives be the driving force of the negotiations, spouses have some sort of measuring stick or, for lack of a better term, rating system. Compared to litigation, where much of the outcome is decided by the judge and predetermined formulas, a goal-centric approach like collaborative divorce leaves divorcing couples feeling better about the outcome because they had greater control over their destiny.