At the beginning of each new year, many couples who have been contemplating divorce make a final decision to move forward and end their marriage. That decision was probably hard enough to come to. But there is one more important decision the two of you have to make — HOW will you divorce? What process will you use? You may have heard about the collaborative divorce process from friends, or colleagues, or just your own research online. It sounds exactly like what you need, but you’re not sure how to talk to your spouse about the idea. The one thing you don’t want to do is try and force your spouse to use the process. You don’t want him or her to enter the process under duress. Instead, you want to make sure that your spouse has the information he or she needs to properly consider this process. Use these tips to have a productive conversation:
- Explain all the reasons why you feel it’s the right process for you and your children. Perhaps it appeals to you because it’s an out-of-court process that provides you each with your own attorney to advocate on your behalf, while promising not to be adversarial. It’s a process that focuses on what’s most important to you and your spouse and your children, rather than on your positions. And it is a team approach that will provide the both of you with a financial specialist and a family specialist who will help deal with the financial, emotional, communication, and child-related aspects of your divorce.
- Explain why mediation is not the right process for you. Your spouse may want to use the mediation process because it’s reported to be less expensive and simpler. And it often is. But if there is an imbalance between you and your spouse on a financial, emotional, or communication level, then the mediation process may not offer enough support to get you to a place of resolution. It will waste time, money and goodwill if you spend months (or even a year or more) in mediation and don’t get anywhere.
- Explain how you want your children to experience the divorce process. Let your spouse know you don’t want to turn your home into a battlefield. You want to keep things as amicable as possible so that your children are kept out of the conflict. You want to resolve your issues in a thoughtful and creative way so that the children’s lives are changed as little as possible.
- Describe the kind of future you want with your spouse. Talk about what it would be like to comfortably sit next to each other at your children’s concerts and plays. To be able to communicate easily and be flexible with each other around the parenting schedule. To be able to dance together at your children’s weddings.
- Explain how collaborative lawyers are different. Most attorneys will say they settle the majority of their cases, but unless they are trained properly they will be approaching the negotiations from a positional place, rather than focusing on the interests and needs of each spouse. It can be very, very expensive when two attorneys are negotiating from positions and have a win/lose mentality. And that’s usually when a judge is needed to break the impasse. Collaborative lawyers are committed to keeping your case out of court and finding a solution that works for both of you.
- Help your spouse find a collaborative attorney. Your attorney should always be willing to give names of other collaborative attorneys who he or she has worked with successfully. Your spouse might be open to hearing those names and receiving that information. But don’t be surprised and don’t be upset if your spouse wants to find a lawyer on his or her own. There are regional collaborative practice groups throughout the country (and the world) that can be accessed to find a collaborative lawyer, financial specialist and divorce coach/family specialists. In the New York area, the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals is the premier practice group.
Once your spouse hears about the collaborative process, he or she may agree it’s the way to go. So when you sit your spouse down, relax and just be open about your feelings. If you need a cheat sheet, click here and sign up for a free infographic explaining why Court Should Be The Last Resort For Your Divorce. And if you would like more information about the collaborative process for yourself, contact us.
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