Saturday, December 15, 2007

How to Tell Your Spouse About Collaborative Law

It's relatively easy for a person facing divorce to discover and embrace the Collaborative Law process. If a person is just looking for confrontation, battle or retribution against their spouse, there will be no interest in Collaborative Law. On the other hand, if someone is looking for a less contentious divorce, and especially if maintaining personal relationships is important (because of children, among other reasons), Collaborative Law has a lot of attraction.

If you and your spouse have already had a discussion about needing a divorce, the question becomes how to inform/convince your spouse about the advantages of the Collaborative approach. If you haven't notified your spouse of your feelings about the marriage, then you need to do so in an appropriate way. See the posting about how to do that in my other blog, Divorce and Family Law in Tarrant County, Texas.

There are many factors for you to consider when deciding how to approach your spouse. Among them are:

  • Your spouse's personality. Does your spouse need to feel in charge? Will your spouse take suggestions well if they come from you?

  • Does your spouse trust your judgment? Is there a lot of distrust in the relationship now? You can do more directly, if there is trust. If trust is a problem, you may need less information coming from you.

  • What is your spouse's attitude about the divorce? Will he or she want to pursue reconciliation or a punitive approach? Is your spouse angry, resigned, happy or looking forward to a divorce?

  • What is the best time to bring up the subject? Are there any family or other significant events coming up that would warrant tabling the discussion until another time? Timing is important. Starting a discussion just before going to bed or as your spouse is rushing off to do something may lead to disaster.

  • Where should you discuss it with your spouse? At home? Out at a public place? With a counselor? With friends? With family around?

  • Should the information come directly from you or indirectly through friends or family? Sometimes your relationship is so strained that you may get a better reception by having someone else bring it up with your spouse.

Once you answer those questions, here are some ideas on different ways to get information to your spouse:

1. Provide written information. This could be a letter from you or your attorney. It could be a brochure about Collaborative Law or an information packet from your attorney.

2. You could bring up the topic generally, but let your spouse research it. Some people like to research for themselves or research may be the better option if trust is an issue. At the least, you should be able to provide some links and resources to your spouse.

3. You could lay out comprehensive information for your spouse to consider. Some parties want to receive a substantial amount of information and then analyze it for themselves. Others want to get a brief explanation and find out the botttom line on any issue.

4. It's usually a good idea to provide a list of qualified attorneys, unless your spouse would feel pressured. If you suggest attorneys, you should offer at least three names, or a Practice Group listing, so that your spouse will not feel like you are pushing a certain attorney or attorneys. It works well if your spouse is good at researching people on the internet.

5. You could give your spouse a book about Collaborative Law. Janet Brumley has a book about Texas Collaborative Law cases. Ron Ousky has a fairly new book, as do Pauline Tessler and Peggy Thompson. Any of those books could be helpful to someone who wants to learn about how Collaborative cases work.

6. In some cases, it may be better to find a mutually trusted relative or friend to discuss the situation with your spouse.

7. There are, or may be, some newer technologies to use to inform your spouse. Web sites and blogs are now important sources of information--you could suggest some. Some attorneys have CDs with information about Collaborative Law which they are happy to provide to you. Finally, You Tube has some short features on Collaborative Law and will certainly have more in the future.

Conclusion: It is important for you to carefully analyze the situation and your spouse's receptiveness to a discussion about Collaborative Law. A thoughtful and sensitive approach during the sometimes delicate time of initially discussing divorce and how to proceed can pay huge dividends and lead to a more peaceful process for you.

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