Whether a couple is in the throes of divorce proceedings or contemplating marriage dissolution, holiday months arrive as a potent reminder. Holidays can become occasion for some to look closer: at what they have, what they do not have, and what they stand to lose. If divorce is complicated—and that is usually an understatement—divorce that involves kids can be overwrought with emotional landmines. Luckily, collaboration is possible and available. Cases can be settled without litigation, collaboratively; a healthier base from which to move forward, even in the midst of holiday mayhem.
One compelling aspect within collaborative divorce comes by way of the “neutrals”—mental health professionals and financial planners who are part of the process in addition to the lawyers. Instead of the litigation model, which produces two opposing parties pitted against each other, in collaborative, the mental health professional and the financial planner (along with the clients and their lawyers) create one team working together. If a couple has yet to file for divorce, they are often reluctant to do so in December. They do not want their kids to associate the holidays with impending separation or divorce and will often hang in until January. A great advantage to the collaborative model, then, is guidance from the mental health professionals. The Divorce Talk is a tough conversation that is easy to do wrong. Often spouses, left to their own devices (sometimes in anger, whether conscious or not), inform children of a divorce on his or her own, a practice potentially damaging to a child. A mental health professional in collaborative divorce advises couples to tell their children about the divorce together. Clients tend to go with the advice of the mental health professional not only because they are experts in their field, but because the mental health professional has no allegiance to either party. Their focus is on what is best for everyone in the family. It is part of the setup. Most divorcing couples, when educated, regardless of their own pain and hurt, want to do what is best for their kids, even if it doesn’t feel fair or good to them personally. Neutrals can aid immensely, especially during the emotionally charged holidays.
Another advantage of collaborative divorce is the ability to control and tailor the visitation schedule. Couples meet with the mental health professional from the beginning to craft a visitation possession schedule both parties can live with. The mental health professional begins the conversation by finding out what traditions the family has already cultivated. If, for instance, mom’s side of the family has historically met on Christmas Eve while dad’s family got together on Christmas Day, the couple might opt to continue that tradition. If one or both parents would like to travel, they can agree to a schedule that switches off each year, accommodating both parents desire to travel with kids. Some couples, particularly when their children are still fairly young, will agree to spend Christmas Day together that first year in an effort to create a smoother transition. In collaborative, myriad options can be brought to the table: in fact, creative solutions that support the specific needs of all parties are encouraged. The possession schedule is brought back to the whole team only if a roadblock is hit and spouses are unable to reach an agreement. Another benefit of the collaborative process during the holidays is the fact that the case is not subject to the arbitrary schedule of the court. If parties decide, for example, to put a pause on their case just to get through the stress and craziness of the holidays, that can be done; however, if both parties would rather have issues finalized before year’s end, attorneys can refocus their efforts to reach a more timely conclusion. A court, on the other hand, does not take into account any timeline but its own.
Collaborative Divorce will not work for everyone. If a client’s main agenda is to punish the other party due to unresolved hurt and anger, the ability to collaborate is severely limited. But people who can see the bigger picture—especially those who have children together—understand that they must see and communicate with their ex to some degree if they want to be a positive presence in the lives of their children. They may not like it, but they get it: the other parent isn’t going anywhere. Collaborative divorce centers on providing choices. Choices grant freedom. What truly distinguishes collaborative divorce is the fact that the parties—not the court or the attorneys—are in control. That doesn’t mean that everyone gets what he or she wants, but getting a say and being heard is part of the path to compromise and ultimate acceptance. It is myth, too, that couples can only go collaborative if they already get along. Slammed doors, rants, and threats are part of the deal more often than not. But collaborative divorce makes it difficult to follow through on ultimatums: if the process falls apart, the parties have to start all over again with new attorneys. Expensive in more ways than one. Built in incentive exists for parties to process through negative feelings as they occur throughout the collaboration. Often, due to the team approach inherent in collaborative divorce, the couple’s ability to communicate can be vastly improved. At the end of the day, the couple may be connecting more effectively than they have in years, even if the subject they are agreeing upon happens to be how best they can live apart from one another. Collaborative divorce might be the best parting gift spouses can give to one another and to their children. Food for thought this holiday season.
Originally posted at http://collaborativedivorcedallas.net/blog/?p=126