Many people who first learn about collaborative divorce incorrectly assume that it only works for couples who get along well and don’t fight. The thinking is that if there is significant conflict the couple is not able to negotiate a settlement and likely will need a court to impose an order on them.
This isn’t true! The collaborative divorce process works well for high-conflict couples. The collaborative professionals include “divorce coaches” who are skilled at working with the spouses to manage the anger and emotions that often drive the conflict with these couples. The turbulent emotions, left unchecked, can be and often are a major obstacle to resolution. The divorce coaches help the spouses to navigate these turbulent emotions, to communicate more effectively and to focus on what is required to reach a mutually-agreeable solution.
If a high-conflict couple proceeds through litigation there is little to no expertise to deal with the anger and emotions. The adversarial nature of that process exacerbates the conflict which often leads to destructive relationships, broken families and exorbitant legal fees. Our view is that high-conflict couples fare much better in the collaborative divorce process than the traditional process in a courtroom. We encourage high-conflict couples to consider the collaborative divorce process when contemplating separation.
I recently finished a collaborative file where the spouses were high conflict – the marriage was over for the wife and the husband was devastated. In our first collaborative meeting they fought over everything. We involved divorce coaches who worked with this couple to reduce conflict, to manage their emotions, to improve communication and to help each of them to focus on what was really important. Although the husband was so immersed in anger and initially unable to focus on the big picture with the assistance of the collaborative professionals he was able move on. When we resumed the legal meetings the couple reached an agreement. Some time after the file completed my client sent me a note expressing her gratitude for the process and telling me that the family was in a much better place than it had been for years!
For high-conflict couples with children, it’s especially important to use the collaborative divorce process and reach an agreement that meets the needs of everyone. While a divorcing couple ceases to be husband and wife, they remain parents indefinitely and, for the well being of the children, need to co-parent effectively. The collaborative divorce process, with the assistance of divorce coaches, assists high-conflict couples to shed the conflict and move on to co-parenting effectively for the sake of the children!