Thursday, September 1, 2011

Slow Down!

One of the most common issues that comes up in Collaborative divorces is the desire by one or both parties to speed up the process. This can come up at the beginning or at various other times as we work through preparation and meetings.

Why are people in a hurry? There are a variety of reasons. Here's some:
  • They want to save money. Fewer meetings = less cost (unless you get a bad result and have to start over).
  • Divorce is stressful and they want it over with.
  • They already have plans and want to get started on their post-divorce life.
  • They don't want to be around the spouse any more than they have to.
  • They are tired of fighting.
  • The case seems very simple and shouldn't take any time.
  • They can do things quicker on their own.
  • Some don't like the process because they have to make tough decisions.
  • They don't think there are any alternatives that they haven't thought of.
  • Some don't like the "touchy-feely" aspects of a Collaborative case.
As a result of having some of those attitudes, parties in a Collaborative case will sometimes try to skip steps or try to meet with just their spouse to resolve some or all of the issues. That usually works out badly. Keep in mind that most people starting a Collaborative divorce have already failed at directly negotiating the issues with their spouse.

Here are three significant steps that should not be skipped:

1. Setting goals. Many people downplay this stage and are satisfied with such vague goals as
wanting a "fair" property division, "reasonable child support" and an "adequate" amount of time with the children.
  • Going through the process of setting goals for yourself helps clarify your thinking and focus on what's really important to you.
  • The process also educates your spouse about what you need. Even though you may have been married for a while, you spouse often doesn't really know what you want or need out of life.
  • Goal setting is also a way to help everyone to start thinking about solutions. Once you identify what to aim for, possible solutions start appearing.
2. Gathering information. It is very common for one or both parties to think that they know what they have or what their circumstances are. That's not always the case. In fact, it is very common for at least one party to know very little about some aspects such as property, debts or children. An organized effort of gathering information can help both parties.
  • Don't assume you know everything. Some things may have been intentionally hidden from you. Other things may have always been overlooked by you.
  • One of the advantages of Collaborative Law is that there is an extra set of eyes looking over everything, whether it is financial or children's issues.
  • Having a neutral-led effort to gather and share information can help where one spouse may not understand about debts or assets or child-care issues, for example.
3. Brainstorming. This is the step where the parties try to come up with as many different ways to meet their needs as they can. Often even ridiculous ideas can be tweaked into really effective solutions. It is very common for one or both parties to come to a meeting and announce that they already know the solution and than brainstorming is unnecessary. That is a mistake.
  • You will limit your options if you skip over brainstorming. You may miss some great ideas.
  • You will limit creativity. One of the best things about Collaborative Law is that it permits and encourages finding unusual solutions.
  • Your needs may not get met. If you take a very limited approach, you may not be able to actually deal with some important needs. Assuming that you already know all the possible solutions may result in dissatisfaction with the outcome.
If you give in to the urge to move quickly and skip "unnecessary" steps, you run the risks of not getting heard, of missing out on creative problem solving and of completely missing resolving the issues most important to you. There is also the risk of one party being overbearing and trying to dominate the other party, leading to bad results as well.

All-in-all, from my experience, you will not get nearly as good a result when you move too quickly and skip steps in the Collaborative process.

1 comment:

Will Beaumont (metairie divorce lawyer) said...

I agree with this. Most of my clients would likely pay much more to have their issues resolved as quickly as possible. But, the focus needs to be on getting a solution that is workable for the long run.