Conflicting perceptions: Can you collaborate?

Written on October 12, 2010 by davesarnacki

“Everything you can imagine is real.”–Pablo Picasso

You’ve heard the saying: Perception is reality. So how can we collaborate through divorce negotiations to a fair resolution when you and your spouse start with such vastly different sets of perceptions?

As strange as it seems, the collaborative divorce process actually moves you through perceptions by promoting fairness in ways the court system simply cannot.

Some couples divorcing through the court’s adversarial system find that they never had a chance to speak for themselves. Sure, they may have been to court. There were hearings on temporary matters, status conferences, settlement conferences and the like. And yet, the usual course of proceeding excluded them. The attorneys did all the talking in front of the judge. The clients remained silent. If unrepresented, one or both parties may have had a chance to speak briefly, but often the court interrupt due to time limitations, a party wandering far afield from the matters at hand, or a combination of both. The man and the woman each leave the courthouse wondering if things might have worked out differently had they just been able to tell the judge their story.

In a collaborative divorce, the process gives you meaningful opportunities to tell your story. Individual sessions may be structured or led by an attorney or a divorce coach or a financial advisor, but the clients are expected to do most of the talking. You share your concerns, needs, insights and ideas. You tell their story, and your perceptions matter.

Some couples divorcing through the adversarial system find that even when they had some chance to speak for themselves, their concerns and ideas were disregarded. No one took them seriously, and no one listened.

In a collaborative divorce, the process gives you assurances that your spouse and the professionals in the process are listening to you, understand what you are saying and care about you. The professionals are trained to focus on you, really listen to what you are saying, see your point of view and fashion solutions that factor in your contributions to the outcome. Your perceptions matter and coexist, front and center, with those of your spouse.

Some spouses in the adversarial system complain that they were not treated fairly. The other spouse was give some tactical advantage: more time, more access to money or resources, more “second chances.” The decision-maker was biased against them. The proceedings forced them to capitulate; they were in a war of attrition, and they lost.

In a collaborative divorce, the process treats each person in a fair and evenhanded manner. The professionals are trained to balance time and resources, and to support you through separation and divorce. You remain in charge, and together, you are the decision-makers. The process works toward consensus and problem solving. We move from where each spouse is–the individual sets of perceptions–into a shared vision for parenting and mutually agreeable solutions for moving forward in separate directions.

Some spouses in the adversarial system spent tremendous amounts of time, energy and money to fight in court. They thought justice would flow from fighting for months about the past and about who was to blame. They were looking for relief, and they ended up being hurt.

In a collaborative divorce, you are accorded dignity and respect. The commitment from the very start is not about the past, fighting or blame. The professionals move the focus from the past to your family’s future, to what your family needs and which solutions provide the best “fit” for each member of your family. The facts and circumstances, including each person’s perceptions are assessed, discussed, listened to, and evaluated. The solutions flow from those perceptions and lead you to the solutions.

The collaborative divorce process is real. Imagine collaborating your way through perceptions, through divorce negotiations and into a fair resolution, and your reality will be a process that promotes fairness, communication and understanding, cooperation and collaboration, dignity and respect.

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