This fall, I attended a meeting of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, where one of the keynote speakers was Donna Hicks, PhD. Throughout Donna’s academic and professional career she has written books about the power of dignity and, specifically, its importance in negotiations of all kinds. Her past clients have included the United States Navy, several large healthcare systems and corporations, and various governments around the world.
When interviewing parties in high-conflict disputes, Donna found that if a person’s dignity is violated, they can become violent, full of hatred, and seek vengeance. But when people treat one another with respect they become more connected, are able to overcome their differences, and achieve resolution.
It’s easy to see how the issue of dignity plays out in a divorce and the role that attorneys and other divorce professionals can play in that process. Consider a husband and wife married 10 years, with two young children. The wife discovers that her husband has been having an affair for the last few years and has fathered a child with his paramour. The wife had no reason to believe this affair was going on. Not only did she think her marriage was healthy, but she and her husband were even considering having another child.
The wife is feeling violated, angry and ashamed. She wants a divorce. The husband is likely to feel guilty and may apologize, but that may not be enough because the wife’s anger is likely to grow over time if the violation of her dignity is not properly addressed. Her natural instinct is to want payback. And there are plenty of attorneys out there who will fan the flames of her anger, resentment and pain by encouraging litigation. They will tell her that she should cut off communication with her husband and that they can help get revenge by convincing a judge that she should get more money for herself or that the children should be kept away from their father. But none of these adversarial, court-based solutions will restore the wife’s dignity. All they will do is create more conflict between the couple that will linger in their lives and their children’s lives for years to come.
Mediation and the collaborative law process help restore dignity rather than encourage revenge.
Since the wife’s dignity has been violated, she needs to know that her husband will show her the respect and consideration that is currently missing in the marriage. The chances of that happening in the litigation process is unlikely, but once a couple enters mediation or the collaborative divorce process, a new rule book comes into play which stipulates (among other things):
- The couple must show each other respect in their actions and words.
- They are encouraged to speak directly to and listen to each other.
- Divorce coaches are utilized to help the couple process their emotions.
- The couple is helped to hear and understand each other.
- Settlement solutions will be developed based on what is most important to each of them.
And, after a journey that may be difficult and emotional, most couples who participate in mediation or the collaborative process will achieve an understanding that allows them to move on with their lives and with their dignity in tact.
If you would like to know more about these processes and the divorce professionals who can help maintain and restore dignity, contact Vacca Law and Mediation at (212) 768-1115 or by clicking here.
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New York, NY 10022