When you’re working out divorce-related issues in the shadow of your broken-down relationship, it’s common to experience a range of unpleasant emotions, like grief, anger, distrust, bitterness, uncertainty and yes, even a strong dislike of your former partner. If you can’t stand your partner, are your dispute resolution options limited? Perhaps you’ve heard of collaborative divorce and it appeals to you, but you think you’re not on good enough terms with your ex to try it?
Collaborative divorce tends to appeal to people who don’t want their divorce to be a massive fight. They want to get through the divorce quickly, at less cost and with less overall trauma. And while a collaborative divorce can help achieve those goals, it isn’t an option for all couples. For starters, you need to be able to be in the same room as your ex and discuss issues with a level of maturity.
What if you can’t communicate well with your ex?
But this doesn’t mean that you have to be good mates with your ex for a collaborative divorce to work. You don’t need to start the process being able to communicate well with your ex. Most divorcing couples have less than effective communication with their former spouse, due to trust and accountability issues and/or the negative emotions being experienced. But a collaborative divorce can drastically improve your communication with your ex.
Conflict still arises in the collaborative process. But your trained professionals know ways to manage it. They can help you both change your behaviour to reduce conflict. For example, helping get you out of a reactive mode, where your intense emotions make you more inclined to get stuck in the blame-game of divorce. Collaborative practitioners are trained to de-escalate conflict and help you pivot out of a high-conflict interaction style. You are assisted to address conflicts in creative, calm ways.
Of course, a collaborative divorce is going to be easier if you both get along really well and are already able to discuss issues fairly and with mutual respect. But these are also skills that can be learnt during the collaborative process. The process itself enables communication, while giving you and your ex the individual support and tools to move beyond your hurt and anger, to be able to talk civilly without escalating conflicts.
Maybe you can’t stand them as a partner, but you can still respect them as a person. If values like integrity, mutual respect and honesty are important to you, we highly recommend considering collaboration.
When is a collaborative divorce unsuitable?
Some situations will make a collaborative divorce impossible, including if family violence or child risk issues are present. For instance, if coercive control, fear and intimidation are factors, this creates a power imbalance that makes it too hard to negotiate fairly.
What does the collaborative process look like?
You and your ex each separately engage a family lawyer trained in collaborative divorce. You each meet individually with your lawyer and figure out what your goals are in the divorce. Each of you signs a “no court” agreement: this means neither of your lawyers are able to represent you if collaboration fails and you decide to go to court and ensures that your lawyers don’t have a litigious mindset. And it means you and your ex-partner agree to enter the process with genuine, good faith intentions of finding solutions without going to court.
The process also draws in other neutral professionals to share their expertise in working out solutions, such as child experts, psychologists, and financial professionals. You all meet to work out what each party wants and how you might achieve it. A series of meetings will continue until disputes are resolved and the matter is finalised. Your collaboratively-trained professionals will help you see both sides of issues, find common ground, and compromise. Both you and your partner are assisted to focus on finding a satisfactory, non-adversarial solution to your issues.
The process lets you avoid the many disadvantages of going to court. Collaboration typically ends up resolving disputes in a faster, cheaper and less stressful way. But there are other advantages to it: it’s empowering, teaches you how to cooperate with your ex (vital if you share children) and gives you much more control over the outcome.
Even if you can’t stand your ex, you don’t need to spend exorbitant amounts of money on litigation. Think about what you really want to achieve in the divorce. Is it the chance to say, “I’ll see you in court!” and the desire to vent to a judge about what a terrible person your ex is? With the result that you will wait possibly years to have that expensive day (or more) in court, and then walk out as either a “winner” or a “loser”? It’s a big risk to take, and just not worth it unless there are serious issues in dispute that can’t be addressed with alternative dispute resolution processes.
Or do you just want a fair settlement that lets you both move on with your lives, without lingering hostility and bitterness, and if kids are in the equation, with new skills for cooperating with your co-parent into the future? If that appeals to you, it’s worth considering whether collaboration might work for you.
You may also like to read our blog on how to convince your ex to try a collaborative divorce.
For more information on collaborative divorce or to discuss whether it may be suitable for your situation, please call Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.