Getting to “yes” in divorce

Either Settle Your Case or Go to Trial

Divorce cases either get settled or go to trial.  You are at least a year away from trying your case in court.  And, that assumes you can afford to pay a lawyer to take your case to trial.   Too often, both sides run out of money to pay their attorneys, and nothing happens.  (Sometimes these type of cases go on for years). The only way to speed up the divorce process is to reach a settlement.

The Problem with Traditional Mediation in a Litigated Divorce

In traditional litigation, settlement is typically reached at a mediation..  I am Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator.  So, I am big supporter of meditation. However, the problem with traditional  mediation is that it takes place in a single day, and there usually is no direct communication between the parties and their two attorneys.  You and your lawyer sit it one room.  Your spouse and his or her lawyer sit in another room.  And, the mediator goes back-and-forth between the rooms and attempts to negotiate a “deal.”  This can sometime be like using a potato to take a photograph – maybe it can be done, but it seems needlessly difficult.

This type of negotiating inevitably leads to “position based negotiating.”  Position based litigation is a win-lose negotiation battle, where each side either wins on an issue or caves in to avoid conflict. For example father wants four overnights during the school week, and mother wants all five.

Collaborative Divorce Enables Both Sides to Win

In a collaborative divorce, we are all in the same room.  I represent you, and your spouse has his or her collaboratively trained lawyer.  There is a Financial Neutral, who knows the family’s finances, and there is a professional who facilitates the meetings, helps with issues regarding the children, and insures that all parties are respectful.This structure allows us to focus on each parties interests and solutions to those interests.  By identifying what interests are motivating the other party, and sharing your own interests, you can open up opportunities to explore tradeoffs across issues and increase your odds of getting to yes.

Back to the example of the mother and father fighting over overnights during the school week.  As it turned out the father wanted to continue to take his boys to their Pop Warner football practices during the week.  (He was one of the coaches, and the boys loved football).   The mother was concerned that the father’s work schedule would not enable him to get the children off to school during the school week.  Rather than fight about “overnights,” the parties were able to talk through their interests, and arrive at a solution that worked best for their children.  (Father continued to take the kids to practices, and would drop them off at mother’s house at night if it was her night, or if he had a work conflict the following day).Collaborative divorce allows both sides to communicate the “why” behind their interests, and settlements can be reached that improve the outcome for both parties, and their children.

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