I just witnessed the failure of a collaborative divorce case for the first time. It is disheartening. The two attorneys, the financial professional and I, were unable to move these clients passed their anger, blame, and fears, and into positive, solution-oriented communication. They will now be going to court, each hiring their own “mean” lawyer who will fight for them. I’m frightened for these two. Money that they could be saving for the children’s college education is now going to go to lawyers.

What About Compromise?

Throughout the case Dad did most of the compromising. Mom, for the most part, wouldn’t budge. She wanted what she wanted and was unwilling to consider alternatives. Dad hit a few of his own limits, too, of course. It takes two to formulate effective collaborative agreements. Their 3 beautiful children are now caught smack in the middle of the war zone. My heart feels heavy for them.

The professional team (collaborative attorneys, financial expert, and I in the role of divorce coach) spent numerous hours analyzing, brainstorming, cajoling, listening, championing, providing reality checks and on and on, trying to come up with new options to keep these two out of court. Court is tricky. It’s always tricky allowing an outsider to dictate an outcome for your family, your finances, and your future. We’re so much better off keeping it in-house. The trouble is, most of us don’t have the skills to do our own negotiating. If we did, we’d likely still be married. (I’ve been know to say that going through my divorce helped me become the person who could have saved my marriage. Go figure.)

Does Litigation Get Us What We Want?

We know we’ve experienced a good divorce when both parties are equally frustrated by the outcome. That’s as good as it gets. Being equally frustrated by the outcome can be ok. Unsatisfying, but ok. The really tricky part is that people think litigating will get them what they want. “That judge is going to finally teach her/him the lesson they deserve so I can have what I want.” (Because after all, what I want is the right outcome.) Although hard to hear, it is as true in divorce as it is in marriage that a completely one-sided agreement is not a good for either of you.

When Fear Enters People Do Really Strange Things

Even though neither of these two want to use their children’s college savings to finance their fight that is exactly what is happening. Remember as kids saying things like “My daddy’s bigger than your daddy?” We wanted backup. We weren’t sure we could win our own fights. As adults going through divorce we want the biggest, toughest, meanest lawyer for the same reasons. But going that route destroys families, sucks finances, hijacks our time, stretches the limits of our emotional health, and we don’t learn a thing from the experience. Dang. Somehow I was smart enough to purposely negotiate my own divorce. I wanted to get every drop of learning I could from it. I was determined to never, ever, repeat that lesson. It took every emotional resource I had but by golly, I got through it and I grew from it.

Just to be clear, I know there are some divorces where one partner is determined to do anything it takes to destroy the other. That just sucks. In that case there is nothing you can do but hire the biggest meanest lawyer you can find so you don’t get annihilated. Get a lot of support around you because you’re going to need it. Sorry, but there are no easy answers to that one.

Collaborative Divorce Provides Everything Needed

A Collaborative Divorce provides a team approach to everything you need to get divorced: legal, financial, and emotional/relational. I’m so glad it’s in the divorce world so families have a more conscious choice in the way they separate. Separating simply does not have to be war. And… it’s still disheartening to experience the failure of a Collaborative Divorce case.