Poll

The hardest or worst part of my divorce is/was?:

A Collaborative Divorce With a Very Happy Ending

Yes, divorce is here to stay, and although it is difficult at any time, during the holidays it can seem that much more so. Traversing the road to divorce is usually characterized by frustration, anger and unmet needs. Transposing negative feelings against a background of Christmas cheer and Happy New Year's greetings can get very discouraging. The crisis of divorce, however, can present one with both risk as well as opportunity. And, sometimes a trip to the attorney's office can turn into a wonderful new beginning. It was for Mary and Dan, a couple whose marriage was ending after 43 years.

Mary decided on her birthday that she no longer wanted to be controlled by her husband Dan. She was often hurt by the way he would belittle her activities, say mean things to her, and put her down in front of their children and grandchildren. This behavior was nothing new, however, it grew over time and greatly accelerated after Dan's retirement. Dan spent most of his days at home and looked to Mary to fill the hole in his life caused by his lack of a structured work schedule. When Mary left him one day, seemingly out of nowhere, Dan felt devastated. After he was served with divorce papers, Dan confessed to his attorney he would do anything to get Mary back.

Dan's attorney sympathized with him and recognized there was a possibility the marriage could be saved. He spoke to Mary's attorney about that possibility. Although Mary had been quite adamant about wanting a divorce, her attorney recognized this was a long-term marriage with two adult children and four grandchildren, and it made sense to see if the marriage could be saved. The two attorneys next referred Dan and Mary to two divorce coaches to sort out the issues that lead to Mary's filing for divorce. Now this may sound like a very strange next step. Instead of initiating the process of discovery and racking up billable hours in writing letters back and forth, these attorneys put the legal process, and thus their earnings, temporarily on hold. Because Mary and Dan had chosen to have a collaborative divorce, the attorneys had the option of beginning the case with the underlying emotions which brought Mary to leave before proceeding any further. If these emotions and their subsequent behaviors could be resolved, then perhaps Dan and Mary could both get what they wanted.

In collaborative divorce, attorneys, financial advisors and mental health professionals work together as part of a team approach with the purpose of assisting people to divorce in a better way. Collaborative Divorce professionals recognize that although divorce is a legal process, it is emotionally and financially driven. When choosing to divorce collaboratively, couples work together with their team of professionals until an agreement on property, support, and parenting is reached. This is done by agreeing to openly exchange information with one another and agreeing to work together without going to court. Couples are thus able to avoid the cost of lengthy discovery, and expensive court dates that often get postponed, while maintaining more control over the entire process.

Mary agreed to meet with me to act as her divorce coach and assist her with the emotional issues she was already experiencing. It was during our first meeting, as Mary was recounting the story of her marriage, that she admitted she still loved her husband but couldn't go back to a relationship in which he tried to control and micro-manage her. She knew how devastated Dan was from all the letters and flowers he had sent her since she left. Mary felt compassion for Dan, but she knew lots of changes had to be made before she could think of reconciliation. Dan also met with his divorce coach and learned about what life may have felt like for Mary for the last four decades.

It was during our conjoint meetings that Mary was able to tell Dan how his negative behaviors had affected her, and how she was rarely able to adequately speak up for herself. For the first time in their lengthy marriage, Mary felt heard and understood by Dan. Both Mary and Dan recognized they both had to change. Mary and Dan stayed separated for a few months while spending time together, talking and working out plans for their future. Mary was learning to speak up for herself when she felt wronged, and Dan was learning to listen and respect Mary's thoughts and feelings, as well as do more things for himself.

Dan and Mary will be spending the holidays this year together with their children and grandchildren, and have made travel plans for the near future. They have agreed to continue their individual hobbies as well as develop some new hobbies together. Their divorce attorneys have happily closed their cases.

Now, I don't want to give the impression that going through a collaborative divorce will very likely lead to reconciliation—it simply isn't true. However, with collaborative divorce, couples are given opportunities they would rarely see during a traditional divorce. They're given the opportunity to learn about the mistakes they've both made. They're given the opportunity to learn to move beyond the bad part of their relationship, and if they have children, they're given the opportunity to learn how to communicate with one another about the best part of their marriage, the family they've created. Mary and Dan took this opportunity to reconfigure their relationship and move forward together. They certainly are the exception rather than the rule, but sometimes exceptions do happen and new beginnings can emerge from the unlikeliest of places.

Source: By Susan F. Schwartz, L.C.S.W. http://www.huffingtonpost.com