There are many decisions that every couple has to make in the process of getting a divorce. How will the assets be divided? Who will keep the house and, if we don’t sell it, how will we determine the value of it? How will we share time with the children? How will we divide our household items? How will we pay for the children’s expenses? How can we make sure we both have enough money to live on month to month?
People typically feel overwhelmed by these questions yet it is difficult to turn these decisions over to lawyers or a judge and relinquish control over the outcomes. In a collaborative divorce, unlike mediation or litigation, there is a team of professionals to help you determine what decisions need to be made and to coach you through the process of making them. You have your own lawyer in the room, along with the lawyer for your spouse, to make sure all the legal issues are covered. There is a financial professional who can discuss the tax consequences of the decisions you are making along with showing the long term financial outcomes of the options you are considering.
There is also a mental health professional who, having mediation training, is able to teach you a decision making process, something most married couples have never developed. The first step is to define the question to be answered or the problem to be solved. Second, all information relevant to the problem to be solved is gathered and verified. The third step involves a discussion of what is important to each person, their reasons for wanting a specific resolution. For example, you have one orange and you both want it. Further discussion of interests reveals that the wife wants to make marmalade and only needs the zest and the husband wants the only the juice for a recipe. A judge would merely cut the orange in half, but in the collaborative process the solutions can be creative and based upon the interests of the parties.
Once the information is gathered and the interests are known, the brainstorming process of generating options begins. No option is off the table. At this point, more information may be needed about specific options to determine their viability. Once that is gathered, the next step is to evaluate the options by discussing the pros and cons of any that either one of the couple feels might work. Often the final solution is a hybrid of two or more options. This discussion is facilitated by the team and leads to the final step, a decision about how to proceed.
These discussions can still be difficult and emotional, but couples who are willing to follow the process and stick with it, will emerge with a final divorce settlement document. The hope is that they also have learned more about how to make decisions and are better able to work together to raise their children.
The collaborative divorce process provides many couples with the opportunity to make well informed decisions. It is a supportive process where new skills can be acquired and utilized after the divorce is final. Reach out to Nancy Williger or explore our website to learn more about the collaborative divorce process.
Nancy Williger can be reached at (314) 993-4001