Communication Guidelines For The Collaborative Process
At South Jersey Divorce Solutions, we believe that many clients could benefit from using alternatives to traditional litigated divorce. One of those alternatives is the collaborative divorce process. As the name suggests, it focuses on reaching collaborative solutions between parties rather than leaving important decisions up to a judge.
In order for a collaborative divorce to work, however, both parties must be willing to adopt certain attitudes and behaviors. This can be difficult when trying to also process your feelings of anger and hurt regarding the divorce. Nevertheless, collaborative divorce has worked for many soon-to-be exes in New Jersey, and it may be the right option for you. On this page, we’ve provided an overview of successful communication in collaborative divorce.
How You Say Things Can Make A Huge Difference
Here are some important things to keep in mind when communicating during the collaborative divorce process.
- Focus on the problems and concerns rather than attacking the other person.
- Rather than taking a position, express your needs and interests regarding the outcome you would like to see.
- Remember that your goal is an agreement that both you and your family find acceptable and constructive.
Team meetings will include both parties and their legal representatives. During these meetings, please follow these guidelines:
- Show everyone respect.
- Address each other using first names rather than “he” and “she.”
- Listen respectfully when someone else is speaking and do not interrupt. You will be given an equal amount of time to respond and speak to every issue under discussion.
- Avoid “blaming” language that accuses the other client of doing something wrong.
- Rather than stating whether something is “fair” or “unfair,” try describing it as “workable,” “agreeable” or “acceptable” or their opposites, “unworkable,” “not agreeable” and “unacceptable.”
- Use “I” statements to present the situation from your point of view.
- Make observations. (i.e. “I noticed that three times in the past month pickup of the children happened over an hour later than you were scheduled.”)
- Express your feelings about the observation. (i.e. “I feel concerned and anxious when this happens.”)
- Express your thoughts regarding the situation. (i.e.“I think this is not the best situation for the children and makes it more difficult to stick to a schedule.”)
- Express the outcome you would like to see regarding the situation. (i.e. “Why don’t we discuss whether the timing for pick up is actually working and whether we need a different schedule.”)
These may seem like small and insignificant details, but they can be highly effective in minimizing conflict and keeping interactions productive.
Listening Is Just As Important As Speaking
During the collaborative divorce process, it is important to practice active listening. This means:
- Give each speaker your full attention. Try not to plan your reply in your head while they are still speaking.
- Focus on what they are saying without making a judgment about the speaker or their statements.
- If you find a point confusing or unclear, ask the speaker to explain further.
- Try restating the information in your own words to make sure you understand.
- Ask the speaker if your restatement reflects their point correctly and if it does not, repeat the above steps until it does.
Active listening isn’t the same thing as passive acceptance. When you say “I understand,” that does not necessarily mean “I agree.”
Additional Tips For Success
Finally, here are some ideas for keeping things moving and constructive:
- When you bring up a problem, offer a possible solution at the same time.
- Speak up if you are having a problem with an aspect of the process so you and your lawyer can address it.
- If there is something you do not understand, your lawyer is there to answer your questions and clarify the issues for you.
- This process takes time and only works when both parties are present. Make the meetings a priority and come prepared each time.
- Have patience when you run into delays. They can still happen, despite everyone’s best efforts and good intentions.
These may seem like a lot of rules to follow, but please keep the benefits in mind. Collaborative divorce can be faster, cheaper and less stressful than litigation, and it gives both parties more control over the outcomes.