If you’re considering a collaborative divorce, or about to undertake one, here are seven tips to make the process go much smoother:
- Trust the Process
The key to success in a collaborative divorce is commitment to the process. You’re undertaking the collaborative route because you believe it’s better than the litigated alternative. Once litigation is off the table, this leads to serious, thoughtful negotiation where all parties come to the best resolution.
- Utilize the Team
Your collaborative divorce team will include your two lawyers, along with other professionals such as coaches, financial planners, accountants, therapists and child specialists. While this may initially seem like an excessive amount of people involved in your divorce, it’s actually a more efficient way of handling all of the details. Rather than one lawyer trying to be an expert across the board, each expert is called in as needed, offering their own expertise. This team approach is very effective at finding solutions, so be sure to utilize each professional as needed.
- Do Your Homework
Your collaborative lawyer may give you assignments before each meeting, like gathering financial data such as W2s and income tax returns or preparing a list of assets. To make sure the process goes smoothly, take this “homework” seriously and come prepared for each meeting so that you don’t waste time and delay the process.
- Don’t Try to ‘Win’ the Negotiations
In a collaborative divorce, everybody wins by avoiding lengthy, expensive litigation. So don’t make this a competition. Enter into negotiations with the mindset that you want to find solutions to your divorce—not that you want to win everything. Be prepared for lengthy discussions and fair explorations of all the options, sometimes having to compromise as you reach your agreement.
- Listen to Your Spouse’s Point of View
When you’re going through a divorce, it’s easy to focus on your own side of the story. While it’s important to get your point across, be sure to hear what your spouse is saying and feeling as well. This is the best way to come up with solutions that work for both of you, allowing the process to move along smoothly. Your collaborative lawyer and the rest of your team will help resolve any impasses.
- Make Sure You’re Comfortable
Throughout the process, it’s important to make sure that your concerns are being met. If you have questions, ask them. And if you have reservations about any of the negotiations, be sure to bring them up. Your team is there to handle all of the details and make you feel confident in all of the choices and decisions that you’re making.
And if at any point during your four-way negotiations you need clarification or a moment to regroup, ask to take a break. You and your collaborative lawyer can step out of the meeting room to talk privately for a few minutes, allowing you to better understand a topic or formulate a strategy. Your comfort and understanding of all the issues at hand is essential to making the collaborative process a success.
- Keep An Open Mind
Remember that no two divorces are alike. Try to think outside of the box and come up with suggestions that work. If your spouse or team has a suggestion, give it time to simmer. The best solutions might not always be the most obvious ones.