Many people go through the divorce process and instead of gaining a sense of closure, they harbor bitterness and resentment. For some, the bitterness never goes away. Now, that could stem from the circumstances of the break-up and certainly every case is different. Yet the type of divorce you choose—-litigation, mediation or collaborative—can be a contributor or a healer, and that should be something you consider.
It’s easy to see how bitterness could happen with the litigation process. You meet with an attorney. You fill out some paperwork, provide your financials and share your story from your own perspective. Your spouse does the same. Typically, any conversations going on during this period are conducted between the attorneys who are one hundred percent in their client’s camp with little or no interest in the other party’s perspective.
Your day in court finally comes. You are standing in front of the judge and next to your attorney. He or she is saying wonderful things about you and not so wonderful things about your spouse. And you may be fine with that until you hear from your spouse’s attorney. He/she is doing the same thing: saying things about you that you don’t agree with or find uncomplimentary at best and downright insulting at worst. During this process, you and your spouse say very little or nothing at all. Then, the judge makes his/her ruling based largely on pre-existing formulas. The disparaging remarks are left hanging and unresolved.
With collaborative divorce, it’s an entirely different process. Your voice and participation are mandatory. The process requires you to meet regularly with your spouse and team and to have an actual dialogue–and, more importantly, to listen. You actually have a civil discussion about the things that divide you. Then you try to find a resolution that factors in both of your concerns. This is where your closure begins.
Now, many couples, even ones that agree about most things in the dissolution of the marriage, have difficulty in communicating. That’s why many collaborative divorce teams include a divorce coach.
The divorce coach is trained to help the parties express themselves in both truthful and respectful ways. He/she will talk to you to get a sense of how you and your spouse communicate. Often, the divorce coach is interested in trigger points for you and your spouse. You know, the things he/she does that set you off. By identifying these things, the two of you can develop a strategy on the best way for you to react if you hit a trigger point. The divorce coach will work with your spouse in a similar fashion.
Finally, the entire goal of a collaborative team (the attorneys, the parties and the coach) is to find a resolution that everyone can live with. This changes the tone of the discussion. The divorce coach will be in the room and keeping the conversation/negotiation productive. Part of his/her job is to monitor the discussion and to gauge the emotions of both you and your spouse to see if anybody is losing their composure. By simply recognizing the triggers, identifying communications designed to get a reaction, and sometimes calling for a short break, the divorce coach can help keep a meeting from deteriorating. You would be amazed how a discussion with the divorce coach can get you or your spouse through the rough patch and the meeting back on track.
By going through the collaborative divorce process, many couples lay the foundation of how they will communicate with each other going forward. In many cases, couples learn to communicate far better as exes than they did as a married couple.
At the end of a collaborative divorce negotiation, you will have had ample opportunity to be heard. Metaphorically speaking, you will have had your day in court and the words and feelings will come directly from you, not your attorney.
Does that mean anybody who goes through a collaborative divorce has no resentment or bitterness? No. In a lot of divorces, there’s typically one person who didn’t want it. Collaborative divorce won’t change that. But there’s just something about laying all your cards on the table and making your feelings known that minimizes feelings of resentment. You walk away with that sense of closure you might not have had otherwise.