The call divorce lawyers dread

“___ introduced their new boy/girlfriend to the kids.”

Introducing a new significant other before a divorce is final can derail even the smoothest negotiation, whether litigation, mediation or collaborative. Fortunately, collaborative divorce negotiations and the team approach it employs have built-in mechanisms to address these kinds of situations. Namely, a divorce coach.

This video put out by the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council illustrates how the divorce coach can act as a key intermediary and resolve disputes that seem beyond repair. In this case, what happens when one spouse introduces a new significant other to the children before the settlement is complete.

In the video, both spouses contact the divorce coach after the meeting to essentially tell their side of the story. The divorce coach sets up a meeting to listen to the concerns of both. At this juncture, being able to come to a settlement via collaborative divorce is very much up in the air.

The initial phone call and individual meetings with both spouses give both parties a chance to vent. Additionally, when the divorce coach says she will meet with the attorneys on this matter, it offers each some consolation that their side will be heard and action is being taken. This feeling alone starts the cooling down process for each as their initial anger is out of their system and the professionals will address the situation.

In the video, however, that’s not a clear-cut solution. Attorneys are professionals, but we are also people, too, who have had life experiences that have impacted our views. The video demonstrates how one attorney had her own view on this matter and it was based on personal experience. Much like the divorce coach did with the couple, she also talks it out with the attorney alone and then with the other attorney, then the three got together as a group. It was then the group came up with an approach to bring back to the couple.

In the video, both spouses have had a chance to cool down and are able to have a rational discussion. Though neither is thrilled about the other’s actions and reactions, the couple agrees to continue with the collaborative divorce negotiation.

Much of what’s involved in a divorce case of any kind is financial. Litigation generally follows formulas that have little or no room for negotiation. Collaborative divorce does offer flexibility with the financials. While each spouse may not get exactly what he/she wants, typically we can come up with a solution that both can live with. The real stumbling blocks for any type of divorce are often not of a financial nature but an emotional one.

Collaborative divorce attorneys receive special training to handle cases like the one in the video. Even with that training, the inclusion of a divorce coach is an incredibly valuable asset. For this example, there’s a chance that the result could have gone in another direction. The one attorney had a personal experience that had impacted her opinion. Would she have been able to get past that and help resolve this couple’s dispute? Maybe, maybe not. Yet having the neutral third-party professional, the divorce coach, as the central figure in all the discussions shined a light on the emotional element that was central to the discussions. Ultimately, it saved this divorce negotiation from going to court for litigation where things might have gotten very ugly.

Another important lesson divorcing spouses can glean from this video is how this interaction can set the tone for future communications between divorcing spouses about the children. Granted, they will probably not have the benefit of the divorce coach going forward. Yet they will have gone through an experience of disagreeing with their ex and being able to resolve it. That can be a building block for future issues that are bound to arise as they co-parent their children.

Do all cases go like this in real life? If only, but more than you might think. And it’s a very big reason why I chose to be a collaborative divorce attorney.