The Divorce Coach as an Essential Part of the Collaborative Process

In nearly every divorce or custody case, no matter how “amicable” the parties seem, their deeply felt emotions a significant and often crucial role in preventing or inhibiting the parties from reaching a mutually acceptable, negotiated settlement in a dignified, efficient and cost effective manner. Divorce (including all issues related to the divorce itself) has long been recognized as one of the most severe emotional crises one may face in life, comparable even to the death of a spouse or child.

Divorcing spouses experience the full panoply of emotions – such as fear, anger, resentment, shame, sadness, guilt, depression and denial, to name a few – which emotions are brought into the divorce process, often unconsciously. As a result, these intense emotions and stressors frequently become one of, if not the main, impediment to the parties’ ability to reach a timely settlement agreement at all or attain an agreement that is mutually acceptable and fair. Emotional issues almost always drive up the cost of a divorce, often substantially, and cause the legal dispute to drag on unnecessarily for months and even years. For this reason, the Collaborative team includes a divorce “coach,” who acts as a “neutral” in the process, to help both parties learn to communicate respectfully, constructively, assertively (but not aggressively), and to recognize or be more aware of their “trigger points” and otherwise manage their emotions by becoming more conscious of the effect that their emotions may be having on the ongoing Collaborative process.

Although divorce coaches, because of their training and experience in therapeutic techniques, including mediation, are often drawn from the mental health profession, they do not and may not act as therapists during the Collaborative process, but more as facilitators. The experience of nearly all Collaborative lawyers is that the use of a skilled divorce coach (and sometimes a parenting or child specialist if needed)  in the early stages and often throughout the process actually significantly reduces the time required to negotiate the terms of a settlement – less time is wasted “spinning the wheels” and more on getting the hard work of negotiating done – and can substantially reduce the overall cost of the Collaborative process even taking into consideration the added cost (which is shared by both parties) of retaining the services of a coach.

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