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A Safe Place

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals has created a twenty-minute film titled “A Safe Place” which follows the true life story of a couple as they make their way through a Collaborative divorce. At one point, the couple reads out loud a portion of the mission statement they have written for their divorce.

“We want our children to grow up feeling loved and nurtured by both of us and without a sense that their parents are angry with one another or conducting a quiet war behind the scenes. We want to continue to work as a team in raising our boys, to share in the major decisions, to support one another and to share in the traditions and celebrations we have established.  We want as little change for our boys as possible.”

Later, when the couple gets stuck trying to divide a particularly coveted asset, their collaborative team goes back to their mission statement, revisiting the couple’s longterm goals, to help them come up with a creative solution both parties feel good about.

The film beautifully illustrates how the Collaborative process works and why it benefits the couples who use it. Click here to watch A Safe Place.

Top 5 Reasons to have a Collaborative Divorce After 50

The following is a blurb from a fabulous article written by Tracy A. Timby, a lawyer and mediator in Newtown, Pennsylvania. I found the article on NewtownPatch.com and I’m sharing it here because I think that any couple who has decided to divorce, over fifty or not, should read it before filing papers. Actually? Any couple in the middle of a divorce should read it, especially if they’re in the middle of a litigated divorce, because no one has to keep litigating once they’ve started.

Divorce files are public record and all court appearances are open to the public. In a typical litigated divorce, the court file will contain details about income, retirement funds, investments, value of your home, mortgage balance, all debt, names and ages of your children, your age, health status, documentation of any drug or alcohol issues, allegations about your parenting, marital misconduct, credit worthiness, and much more.

In a collaborative divorce, all of the above is shared only with the people directly involved in the case and only upon agreement of both parties. The paperwork filed is what is necessary to process the divorce and document the agreement of the parties.

If that information alone isn’t reason enough to choose collaboration over litigation, I don’t know what is.  But that’s just my opinion. If you’re not convinced, head over to NewtownPatch.com and read the full article.

Photo from UPack.com

Rules for Fair Fighting

Everyone disagrees sometimes.  In fact, a relationship that avoids conflict may be unhealthy. A healthy relationship does not avoid conflict, but uses it to clear the air productively, without hurt feelings.

Here are fourteen rules for fighting fair:

1.  Take Responsibility. It may take two to argue, but it only takes one to end a conflict. Make a commitment to never intentionally harm your partner’s feelings.

2.  Don’t escalate. The most important commitment you will make to fair fighting is to overcome any desire to speak or act hurtfully.

3.  Use “I” speech. When we use “you” speech, it is often perceived as accusatory.  Instead, talk about your own feelings: “I feel hurt when I hear that.” This may prevent defensiveness, as it’s hard to argue with a self-report.

4.  Learn to use “time out”. Agree that if hurtful speech or actions continue, either party may call a time out.  The three elements to a successful time out are:  1.) Use “I” speech to take responsibility, such as, “I don’t want to get angry.”  2.) Say what you need: “I need to take a walk to clear my head.”  3.) Set a time limit: “I’ll be back in 15 minutes to finish our talk.”  These steps will keep either of you from feeling abandoned.

5.  Avoid and defend against hurtful speech. This includes name-calling, swearing, sarcasm, shouting, or any verbal hostility or intimidation.  Agree to a key phrase that indicates hurt feelings, such as “That’s below the belt.”

6.  Stay calm. Don’t overreact.  Behave with calm respect and your partner will be more likely to consider your viewpoint.

7.  Use words, not actions. When feelings run high, even innocent actions like hitting a tabletop may be misinterpreted.  Use “I” speech to explain your feelings instead.

8.  Be specific. Use concrete examples (who, what, when, where) for your objections.

9.  Discuss only one issue at a time. If you find yourself saying, “And another thing….,” stop.

10.  Avoid generalizations like “never” or “always”. Use specific examples.

11.  Don’t exaggerate. Exaggerating only prevents discussions about the real issue.  Stick with facts and honest feelings.

12.  Don’t wait. Try to deal with problems as they arise — before hurt feelings have a chance to grow.

13.  Don’t clam up. When one person becomes silent and stops responding, anger may build.  Positive results are attained with two-way communication.

14.  Agree to these ground rules.

Remember, when you both agree to common rules, resolving conflict is more likely.  Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to fight fair, we simply can’t resolve a conflict.  When this happens, talks with a trained professional may help.  We are always available to assist you when you are unable to reach a resolution you can both live with.

The family law lawyers at The Law Collaborative, Los Angeles, is dedicated to providing useful tools like these to assist couples in managing conflict, resolving issues, and preserving families.  Please visit our website for more tools and resources.

Four-Way Meetings

If you’re having a collaborative divorce, you’ve probably heard the term “four-way meeting.” What is it and why is it important?

Collaborative four-ways are like the frame of the house. Within that framework, you will create the outcome that will make up your actual divorce agreement. The quality of the outcome likely will depend on the foundation and the framework that supports it.

Read the rest of this great article from Divorce Magazine.

Not just a lawyer

An article this week in the New Zealand Herald got me thinking.  The author writes, “Lawyers know about conflict and extreme positions and applying rules and measuring out assets and applying formulas and assessing risk. What lawyers don’t seem to know about is that there is really only one answer to everything.  Forgiveness.”

In a way, she’s right.  Yet what she says is basically what those of us practicing collaborative law have been trying to say all along.  Divorce is a crisis of huge proportions.  It’s messy, it’s complicated, it’s painful.  While traditional lawyers are trained to defend their clients according to the laws, collaborative lawyers are trained to help families in crisis reorganize their lives with dignity, honor and peace.  The goal of Collaborative Divorce is to begin as two, end as one, and still feel whole.

Recently I heard a woman say that it was too late to begin the collaborative process because she’d all ready hired a traditional lawyer.  It’s never too late to turn things around and seek peace.

If you or someone you know has questions about the collaborative process, send us an email by clicking here:  Info@TheLawCollaborative.com.  You can also call our toll free number (888) 852-9961, and please feel free to visit our information center.  We’re here to help.

In Plain English

Two children are in the kitchen fighting over an orange.  Their father walks in, sees what’s going on and decides to put an end to it.  He grabs the orange from their hands, puts it on the chopping block, cuts it in half and gives half to his son and half to his daughter.

Both children burst into tears.  Astonished, the father turns to his son and says, “Johnny, why are you crying?”
“I wanted the whole orange!”  Johnny says, sobbing.
“You can’t have the whole orange, there’s only one orange.  You have to share it with your sister.  Stop crying.”  Then he turns to his daughter and says, “Suzy, why are you crying?”
Suzy sniffles and says, “Daddy, I didn’t want the orange at all.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“I only wanted the peel.  I need it for an icing recipe for a cake I just baked.  But I have to have the whole peel.”
The father scratches his beard, thoughtfully.  “You only wanted the outside of the orange?”
Suzy nods her head sadly, a fat tear dripping from her chin.  “Yes.”
“Can Johnny have the inside of the orange?”
Her eyes widen and she bounces on her toes.  “Yes!”
“Johnny? Will you give your sister the orange peel if she lets you have the inside of the orange?”
Little Johnny’s face brightens and he clasps his hands together.  “Yes! Of course! I didn’t even want the crummy old peel!”

***

The truth about litigated divorce is that the judge doesn’t have the time, the inclination or the imagination to find out what your interests are.  When you get a traditional, litigated divorce, you get distributive bargaining.  The judge is following the law.  He’s lead by the rules and the statutes.

With Collaborative Divorce, as well as with mediation or The Kitchen Table Divorce, there is creativity and imagination.  Your wants, your needs, and your fears are heard, acknowledged, and understood.  Your spouse’s wants and needs and fears are heard, acknowledged and understood.  It’s impossible to be angry or hateful towards someone you understand.

You went into your marriage with love.  If you’re getting a divorce, you have the opportunity to reorganize your life with love.  It’s your choice.

The Seven Options for Divorce: Number Three

The third option for divorce is a Collaborative Divorce.  It’s like mediation on steroids.

Collaborative Divorce is similar to mediation in that it’s protected by the evidence code.  Everything is confidential, privileged, private, and can’t be used in court against you.  What makes it different is that it creates a team of people who will help you get through what can be a very painful process, as painlessly as possible.  Collaborative Divorce calms the waters.  It allows you to take stock in yourself before you get into the process.

In a Collaborative Divorce you are surrounded by a team of experts, appraisers, mental health professionals, actuaries, real estate people, people you need to access so that you can reorganize your life, maximize your tax position, divide your assets peacefully, and become successful co-parents.

When you go to court, you get distributive bargaining.  Judges are limited by the rules, by the statutes, by the code sections.  The judge makes the best decisions in accordance with the law.  When you have a Collaborative Divorce, you make the best decisions for your family.

Option 1:  The Kitchen Table
Option 2:  Mediation
Option 3:  Collaborative Divorce
Option 4:  Arbitration
Option 5:  Negotiation in the Shadow of Litigation
Option 6:  Rent-A-Judge
Option 7: Litigation

What experts are involved in the collaborative process?

Ron Supancic answers that very question in this short informational video.