Picture for a moment the following Florida collaborative divorce scenario. We’re inside a Bay Area law office. Two people who have decided to dissolve their marriage due to irreconcilable differences sit across from each other at a table. Each is flanked by family lawyers and therapists. The nervousness is palpable.
The soon to be ex-husband repeatedly sips from an over sized cup of coffee; the nearly ex-wife taps her index finger on the mahogany table in an endless percussion. The therapists and lawyers begin the meeting by stating what their clients hope to achieve, and the mood in the room changes to one of acceptance.
Divorce is not a lovely process by any means, but collaborative divorce proceedings can lessen the painful journey, says St. Petersburg therapist KathyDan Moore, LMFT. You can open a tab to her page by holding the Ctrl key and clicking here. This is not a courtroom; no judge presides with the gavel at the ready. Others are not deciding the fate of these plaintiffs. They entered into this marriage contract on their own terms, and they will now dissolve it. They have the control. This is the main benefit of collaborative divorce.
After all the arguments and impasse, the most painful decision has already been made: this marriage will soon be over. What remains is the aftermath. And these lawyers and therapists are there to help. Meetings with just the lawyers may have already occurred; now, this joint meeting is the kickoff for a timeline of mutual agreeance. What financial and custody agreements must be solidified before this marriage ends? It’s decided here. Inside this room is the beginning of the end. And after all the months of fighting, that realization is comforting.
The therapists remind the couple that thanks to their willingness to undertake Florida collaborative divorce, a judge will not be the one who has the final say in their settlement. These spouses have decided to limit emotional pain by collaborating with professionals trained in such cases – and by doing so, they will limit the financial fallout of the divorce as well. Both nod. They are willing to go through the divorce process without adversarial attitudes.
Even though they understand what they hope to accomplish from the meeting, as the session progresses, negative emotions flare. One spouse points at the partner’s lack of daily help with child-rearing as a reason for lessened visitation and begins listing all the ways he has fallen short of paternal expectations. He counters with a reminder of his breadwinner status in the relationship and therefore his lack of time.
The therapists manage the situation and remind their clients of the goal at hand. Cooperation is tantamount to the success of Florida collaborative divorce; without it, a more traditional divorce proceeding will be necessary. Both parties share information openly and state what they hope to keep from the union. By speaking clearly and without passion, they are able to come to an agreement.
The therapists had already pre-qualified this couple for the collaborative divorce process, so it’s not surprising that by the end of the hour, there’s a solid plan in place for dissolution. If an agreement had not been reached, new lawyers would have had to be hired and litigation begun.
The session is over. The lawyers leave to draw up a Marriage Settlement Agreement, which the spouses will willingly sign. And that courtroom battle that seemed inevitable months ago during all the disagreements? It never comes close to fruition.
For more information about collaborative divorce and how involving both a therapist and a Florida divorce attorney can save you time, money and heartache during marriage dissolution, visit the website for the Coleman Law Group.