Getting divorced (and doing it well) is an expensive task.
If someone were to do the impossible task of removing all the emotional complexity out of, it would be a lot like dissolving a business partnership. You must decide how to disentangle and rearrange all these things:

  • Finances
  • Home(s)
  • Cars
  • Kids schedules (maybe)
  • Retirement plan(s)

Most people struggle to handle tough decisions like this at any time – let alone when things are so emotionally difficult.

ADDITIONALLY: There is financial pressure to do get through all these decisions quickly and efficiently.

 “It can be tempting for clients to try to rush through the process, skipping some of the tried-and-true steps.”

The Collaborative Divorce process has been built on a tried-and-true step-by-step formula. It has built in flexibility, but ultimately follows a prescriptive “Roadmap.” Guiding the family through the process are 3-4 expertly trained and experienced professionals, all of whom bill hourly. This means that when the whole group convenes for a large group, the meeting can be quite expensive.

It can be tempting for clients to try to rush through the process, skipping some of the tried-and-true steps (more on that later). They are hoping that by doing this they can skip some of the steps and thereby save money by using less billable time with the professionals. While this approach occasionally works, it most often causes more problems and costs the couple more money. Here are some of the ways this happens, and some examples of the ways this causes problems:

Skipping “Information Gathering”:

This happens when the couple tries to move ahead without all the information.
Super important: BEFORE the couple makes any decisions, or attempts to solve their own problems, they MUST have all the information that they need to make great decisions. Otherwise, they may end up talking themselves into an option that won’t actually work for them.

For example, in one hypothetical family:

Saving Money Divorce

The husband wanted to keep the marital home.  The couple informally “agreed” that wife would move into an apartment, and he would keep the house. However, it turned out that he wouldn’t be able to afford it on his own AND make child support payments she needed to manage her cash flow. In order to make the child support payments he ended up having to sell the marital home and purchase something smaller. He was frustrated and hurt that it felt like she was “going back on her word.” However, when she said she wanted him to keep the house, she didn’t have all the information she needed to make that commitment.

Skipping “Option Generation” or “Option Evaluation”:

Sometimes a couple thinks they have an agreement, but they actually don’t.

For example: in another hypothetical family:

The couple emailed the team ahead of the meeting, stating “we’ve come to an agreement about everything. We will update you in the upcoming meeting.” Then in the meeting, the husband explained that had agreed to share all their stocks and retirement assets equally. He would get all the stock options and retirement EXCEPT for one account. This was news to her! While that would generally give them equal amounts in their retirement, she was not comfortable with that set up. She had agreed to splitting retirement in half… but she hadn’t known to keep clarifying with her husband. She felt blindsided in the meeting and hurt by his suggestion.

In a different family:

The parents thought they had an agreement about parenting time. The couple emailed me ahead of the parenting planning meeting saying, “the meeting can be brief, we already agreed to our schedule.” However, when the meeting began, they discovered that they had not fully discussed the schedule. One of them believed that the schedule would come out to a roughly 60/40 split, and the other believed it would come out to roughly 70/30. They had agreed about the specific overnights, but when it came to the percentage, they had never calculated it. When they saw it… they weren’t so sure anymore?

Skipping ahead and trying to find resolution outside of session (in my experience), most often leads to misunderstandings and frustration that play out in group meetings.

“Skipping ahead winds up costing more money and time for the clients than if we had followed the process as it was created.”

Now, let’s talk about how it works when it goes best:

Roadmap to Resolution:

Collaborative Divorce has a roadmap to resolution, which has been tried and tested, proven over and over again over the last few decades. It has been honed over time, to benefit the families walking through the process.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Understand and Agree to Process
  2. Discuss Interests and Goals
  3. Deal with Interim Issues (that must be dealt with before divorce is finalized)
  4. Information Gathering
    • Decide what is needed for decision making
    • Assign information gatherer(s)
    • Review shared information

5. Creatively Problem Solve

  1. Option Generation
  2. Discuss probable outcomes of each option

6. Negotiate Agreement – Option Evaluation

  1. Compare expected outcomes of each option to client’s goals
  2. Narrow options to the ones that most closely align with both client’s goals

7. Finalize Legal Documents

8. Sign Final Documents, Present to Court if Necessary

When couples attempt to jump from Steps 2 or 3 to Step 5 or 6, without spending enough time in “Information Gathering” or “Option Generation,” we almost invariably end up with premature commitments and half-way agreements. These partial agreements end up costing the family more money and time, because the team ends up going backwards anyway – not only to do the Option Generation, but also to help manage and repair the hurt feelings in the couple’s relationship.

This is why we advocate so strongly that the team adhere to the prescribed process above.

Not-So Top-Secret Information:

We want your process to be smooth and efficient, just like you do. Trust me – There are no shortage of folks who need to go through the divorce process. Those of us who do Collaborative Divorce are in this because we believe deeply in helping families disentangle without inflicting the pain of the court on them. We want you to feel empowered to move on into your future, confident with the agreement you came to. The more smoothly we can get you there, the better.

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