Only one divorce process can teach clients new skills that they can use to live a better and happier life after the divorce. These days there are a number of divorce processes to choose from when seeking a Massachusetts divorce but only one of these can offer clients a chance to learn new communication, decision making, and relationship skills.
- provides clients with opportunities to improve relationships. They can learn how to fight less and talk more, make better decisions, think about and work toward realistic personal and family goals, and explore what is most important for living more successfully right now and in the future.
The collaborative process
- encourages clients to grow and develop themselves and work productively through the divorce process with an eye toward living a better life.
Other divorce processes
- can inadvertently encourage clients to fight by focusing on past wrongs and resentments rather than helping them to move forward. These may not produce divorce agreements that work well for families or individuals or that allow for much flexibility in meeting the growing needs of family members.
Producing Better Divorce Agreements
I was recently reminded of how the collaborative divorce process can produce really good divorce agreements that work for both clients and for their families. In a recently completed case, the clients came to the “divorce negotiation table” with a sense of failure, defeat, and deep disappointment. The air was filled with unexpressed anger and hurt which seemed to leak into the room via their snippy comments, impatience, and an unwillingness to see the others’ point of view. We were not off to a good start but the professionals at the table pressed onward. The attorneys and I wanted to offer these clients an opportunity to shift away from angry maneuvers and resisting change toward solid decision making and problem solving. We hoped to see them transition from enemies to successful co-parents.
As the work progressed, the clients softened a bit. They began to see that continuing to fight was not going to help either of them achieve their ultimate goals of happy, healthy children and parents who could move forward toward more successful, personal lives. As we continued to highlight the costs of their choice to continue fighting (emotionally as well as time, energy, and dollar-wise), the focus slowly began to shift away from continuing to blame and hurt each other toward working productively to build better futures.
The clients’ short term goals for their children (i.e.-to stay as happy and healthy and unaffected by the divorce as possible, to preserve and strengthen their loving and close relationships with Mom and Dad) as well as their longer term goals for the family (for the children to continue to enjoy nurturing relationships with grandparents and extended family, to have consistency in the rules and structure between their two houses, and to help the children succeed in school) were identified.
As property was divided and issues regarding child support, the disposition of the family home, and the parenting plan were discussed, personal family goals were frequently reviewed and used as a guide for all decision making. Because these goals were kept front and center, they were incorporated into the work to create an agreement that was custom tailored to this particular family’s needs. One that both clients could agree on and live with and that would allow flexibility and meet the family’s ever changing needs.
The Attorneys and Coach
Because the attorneys and coach on this case were well versed in the collaborative model of teamwork and empowering clients to make their own, best decisions, our clients were helped to work through a variety of difficult issues that would not have been addressed with such sensitivity and privacy in other divorce processes. As well, the attorneys, clients, and the coach worked effectively as a team and actively participated in generating creative problem solving ideas to address the needs of these clients as individuals, too.
This helped the clients to craft a divorce agreement that would also address their shared personal goals: to live in a comfortable, safe environment, to have financial stability, to pursue their careers while also having time/energy for enjoying family life, friendships, and hobbies. More so, each client walked away from the divorce table with new skills in creative problem solving and learned to listen to each other in a different, more effective manner because of this process.
In this and many of the other collaborative cases I have had the good fortune to work on, the outcome was a “win-win” one for both the clients and for their children. Each was able to let go of past hurts and resentments in order to work constructively and get enough of what they felt was truly important to live more happily and healthfully, going forward. Both clients gained a new perspective on how to communicate better and negotiate effectively through difficult issues that will serve them well in their new lives both together as co-parents and as individuals.
To make an appointment to learn more about how collaborative divorce and a team approach can be helpful to you, contact:
Betsy Ross, LICSW