1. Choose with Care the Time to Talk
Do not bring up divorce a.) at the end of a difficult day for either of you and/or b.) in front of your children, ever! A “state of readiness” exists when it comes to divorce. Spouses are rarely in the same spot at the same time. One or the other may need to move more slowly than anticipated when adjusting to the shock of a new reality. Collaborative divorce, it should be mentioned, is amenable to couples setting their own pace in the proceedings, which can make the process infinitely more bearable.
2. Your Spouse is Afraid
For your children, for the financial, emotional cost of divorce, and indeed for his or her future. Let your spouse know that you too share those anxieties; it is vitally important to you that you are all protected. Assure your spouse that collaborative divorce is based upon reaching both client’s goals and interests in a safe, transparent environment.
3. KIDS ARE FOREVER. If you have children, remind your spouse that you will be involved with each other in the future as your children grow and that you want that future relationship to be as positive as possible. A collaborative divorce has proven time and again to be most conducive to constructive co-parenting which is good news for you and your children.
4. Anger and Sadness are Unavoidable
When a marriage ends, part of the grieving process naturally includes feeling mad, sad, and conflicted. It is even natural to feel several emotions at once from zero to sixty and back again. You most likely have already experienced these reactions to some degree. Allow your spouse the same courtesy. A collaborative divorce is respectful of this emotional allowance without impeding the overall process.
5. Not Everyone has Heard of Collaborative Divorce
Your spouse may not know much, if anything, about the concept. When introducing the subject, emphasize how collaborative divorce differs from other process options. You never know, your spouse might be relieved that you are opting for a transparent, team-based approach in which both parties’ needs are addressed without the intimidation of court proceedings. Specific examples of how collaborative divorce might fit your situation are key.
6. Come Prepared
Share actual, physical information you have obtained. Request your spouse to take the time to read through the collaborative divorce literature as well as reviewing the website links you provide. Respect the fact that your spouse may prefer to read and/or investigate collaborative divorce on his or her own before discussing further with you.
7. Suspicion is Not Infrequent
Your spouse may find it hard to trust you. Whatever you suggest, regardless of what it is, may be met with wariness and misgivings. Let him or her know that you understand, but reemphasize that you are requesting that he or she review the pros and cons, as you believe collaborative divorce has the ability to offer both you and your children the least damaging path to a successful future. Allow your spouse time to information gather, process options, and set the pace initially.
8. To Each His or Her Own
Point out to your spouse that in a collaborative divorce, you each hire your own attorney. An individual family law attorney is an advocate and represents a client fully, but the benefit of collaborative divorce is that it is in no way necessary or advantageous for either lawyer to “destroy the other side.” A collaborative divorce endeavors to create solutions workable for everyone.
9. Provide Referrals
Ask your lawyer for collaborative attorney referrals with whom your spouse can consult (attorneys within already existing practice groups are ideal if your spouse is willing—refer to #7). Ask that your spouse discuss collaborative divorce with an attorney experienced in the collaborative process. It is appropriate to ask attorneys to quantify experience and training, as both will vary widely within the family law community.
10. Your Final Collaboration
Divorce always comes with a cost, financial, emotional, and otherwise. Regardless of who you are in any other arena, divorce is painful, particularly when children are involved. Remind your spouse that among the options available, collaborative provides the greatest control over how the divorce unfolds; financial expense, timing, agreements reached, but just as critical, the road you took to get there.