What I like about Collaborative Divorce: an attorney’s perspective

As an Attorney who represents clients in both Traditional and Collaborative divorce cases, I am fully familiar with the many benefits of the Collaborative process.  Here are just some of the reasons why Collaborative Divorce appeals to me:

The parties start on equal footing.  In the Collaborative Divorce process, nothing is filed with the court until after the parties have come to an agreement on ALL issues. This process allows all parties to feel that they are heard and empowered.  There is no “plaintiff” or “defendant” opposing each other, often drawing out divorce unduly and making it more stressful, as there is with traditional divorce.

Open and transparent sharing of information.  In the Collaborative process, the parties agree to free exchange of information. This includes all financial information and negates the need for a formal, and often costly, discovery process.

More negotiations happen at the table between the parties.  Everyone wants and deserves to be heard during this highly emotional time. Negotiations in the Collaborative process are primarily done with all parties at the table, which means more creative and workable solutions. And often less negotiation is necessary between the attorneys  — and there’s no interference from the Judge pressuring the parties or attorneys between Collaborative sessions.

The parties are encouraged to fully discuss the topics that are important to them. Unencumbered by the Court’s rigid timeline and structure, the Collaborative process lets parties go at their own pace. If the parties feel they need more time to discuss custody issues or financial issues, the process allows and encourages the parties to take that time.

The parties begin with an AGREEMENT.  In my opinion, the most important advantage of Collaborative Divorce is that the parties start from a place of agreement, not conflict. They do that by signing a participation agreement http://www.govanlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/GL_ParticipationAgreement.pdf) committing themselves to proceed Collaboratively.

To learn more about Collaborative Divorce and how it can work for you, please look through our Collaborative Attorneys and contact one in your area .

About the Blogger:

Matthew Govan is a family law practitioner at Govan Law Office, PA, in Portland. He is the Chair of the Board and a founding member of the Maine Collaborative Law Alliance. To learn more about beginning a Collaborative Divorce or if you are a professional interested in becoming a MCLA member, please see MCLA’s locate a professional or become a member pages.

Collaboration over debate: the real way to win

60745163 - presidential candidates donald trump vs hillary clinton cartoon

Amid this particularly adversarial election season, it occurs to me that fighting, though great for TV ratings, rarely accomplishes anything. I’m thinking about the presidential debates, where the more the candidates assert their positions, the more defensive and polarized they become. Fighting to outdo your opponent makes sense in debate because the idea is to prove the validity of one viewpoint over another.  But when you bring that kind of aggressive, self-serving stance to personal human disagreements, you usually lose.

The secret to winning in the arena of human conflict is to appreciate that the best fixes come from synthesizing rather than isolating different perspectives.   Obama, speaking of politics, is known for solving complex problems by gathering several experts – scientist, economist, historian, etc. – around a table, hearing their varying ideas, and channeling the best of what they offer into a well-rounded solution more potent than what any one of those experts could have created on their own.  When you get beyond a “my way or the highway” mentality to embrace rather than reject other opinions, you release yourself from limitation and enter into an enormous playground of possibility.

This process of synthesizing differing approaches into a more powerful outlook is the heart of collaborative divorce. Instead of wasting time and money by bickering endlessly from their own hard-lined mindsets, husband and wife gather with a team of divorce specialists to craft a divorce agreement that is greater than the sum of its parts.  At best the couple comes up with creative solutions they never thought possible; at the very least they each end up with solutions they both – not just one of them – can live with.

It’s not exactly easy to put ego aside and consider the perspective of someone you may be angry with or feel betrayed by. The process is less challenging, though, when you throw out questions that work well for debating but get in the way of resolution, such as:

  • How can I beat my opponent?
  • How can I prove that I’m right?
  • How can I show everyone that I am smarter/more deserving/morally superior than my opponent?
  • How can I make this go my way?

Even if you regard your spouse as a complete idiot with whom you have nothing in common, you can reach a mutually palatable divorce settlement by unlocking yourself from a single-minded position.   These questions will help you to move beyond guardedness and into the sort of productive, flexible discourse that attracts enlightened answers:

  • What solution is truly best for our children/our mental health?
  • How do I want to feel at the end of my marriage? (Victorious, unencumbered, confident?) Other than getting my own way today, how can I get to those feelings?
  • How would I want to describe my behavior during my divorce to my children/my boss/my students/my favorite mentor?
  • How do I want to remember this process five years from now?
  • How can I behave today to help this process go as smoothly as possible?
  • What might happen today if I let empathy for my spouse, rather than a desire to win/get revenge, guide my actions?
  • How might letting go of the outcome make this process easier/more productive?

The beauty of expansive inquiries like these is that they open up potential for equally expansive solutions.   And if you’re still not convinced that yielding is more likely to bring success than digging your heels in, you need ask just one final question:

What remedies might arise were Hillary and Donald to take their gloves off, highlight the strengths they both bring to the ring, and integrate – rather than argue – their brightest ideas into a plan for our country?

About the Blogger:

Amy Wood, Psy.D. MCLA Founding MemberPsychologist Amy Wood, Psy.D. helps adults to articulate and accomplish their own unique versions of success through psychotherapy, executive coaching, speaking, mediation, and collaborative law coaching.   A pragmatic optimist, she is known for her capacity to simplify complexity and see manageable solutions amid the overwhelm of modern life and work. Dr. Wood is the author of the award-winning book Life Your Way: Refresh Your Approach to Success and Breathe Easier in a Fast-paced World, a founding member of the Maine Collaborative Law Alliance, and a member of the Maine Association of Mediators.   She earned her doctorate from the Adler School of Professional Psychology, graduated from the College of Executive Coaching, and is a certified mediator.   Visit her website at amywoodpsyd.com.