Many couples going through a separation seem to think that because there is so much conflict in their relationship, a collaborative divorce will be impossible and traditional litigation will be their only option. Often, this is not the case. In fact, the collaborative process can be particularly beneficial to both partners in cases where the level of acrimony is very high.
This is because certain aspects of the process often improve communication. Instead of fighting endlessly over every problem in their marriage–often the same issues over and over– the process creates the opportunity to talk about these issues in a way that permits both sides to sit and listen to the other spouse’s point of view and to be heard in a different way. Here are some of the most basic features of a collaborative divorce:
- The process can allow for improved communication: The goal of litigation is to win, not to communicate more effectively with your former spouse. In the collaborative setting, we allow for greater levels of discussion between the parties as to what is most important to them and why. Eventually, all the agreements reached will be written into a legally binding document anyway – but we don’t try to take the strong feelings that both sides have and sweep them under the rug during the process, or pretend they don’t exist.
- The collaborative process is about moving forward, not placing blame for past mistakes: We emphasize that the goal of the process is to figure out how both sides can be happy in the future and best be able to move on with their lives. Those couples who have had an extremely difficult marriage or breakup do not need to (and won’t) agree on who is most at fault for the failure of the relationship. All they need to agree on is a set of terms that each can accept from his or her individual unique perspective. It helps if both people have the desire to move forward as painlessly as possible and without spending tens of thousands of dollars and years in court fighting a bitter litigation battle.
To be fair, there are certainly some people that are not good candidates for a collaborative divorce. These people would likely be better going straight into litigation to resolve their divorces:
- Those who value the guarantee of a binding judgment: Given that the collaborative process is voluntary and depends on both sides coming to agreements together, it is possible that they may not be able to reach a certain resolution. While it is rare, occasionally the process can result in the failure to reach a binding agreement. In court, the judge will make a decision that both sides have no choice but to abide by.
- Those who want to follow a “scorched earth” policy: There are some individuals who are so bitter about their failed marriages that they are actually more invested in trying to stop their former spouses from being happy than in their own future happiness.Given that the collaborative process is about reaching agreements that both sides can live with, if one party’s priority is simply to make the other miserable, the collaborative process is unlikely to be successful.
If you have decided to seek a divorce, and you don’t consider yourself to be one of the people listed in these 2 categories above, you should give the collaborative process a try before resorting to litigation. It can save you and your spouse a lot of time and money, and the 2 of you may even end the process on better terms.