> Divorce Coach, Part II

Posted on August 21, 2013


From Susan Lillis, Esq.:

Have you ever been so angry you wanted to scream? Did you ever let yourself actually do so? You felt better afterwards, right? Probably much better, almost to the point that you weren’t really angry anymore? In a way, that’s the kind of catharsis hiring a divorce coach for your collaborative divorce can bring.

Not that anyone screams at the divorce coach during the course of the collaborative divorce process (hopefully). Yet the pre-divorce meeting with each spouse does offer each person the chance to vent a little, to put their true feelings on the table. This can provide more than an opportunity to vent. Putting spouses’ emotional reactions to the divorce front and center can be critical to helping them make difficult decisions during collaborative negotiations.

This metaphor comes to mind with regard to a specific case I had several years ago. It involved a family of four, the two children being middle school age. The husband had agreed to move out of the home and the couple had tentatively agreed that the children would live primarily in the family home with their mother. Sounds cut and dried, right?

During a meeting with the divorce coach, the husband expressed a sense of loss and exclusion. He was afraid that as a result of the divorce that we would lose his relationship with his children. Also, he was a bit of a handyman and had put a lot of the work into the family home. So, not only was he afraid of losing his children, he was also losing something he had put his blood, sweat and tears into: the family home.

Conversely, the wife was dealing with a number of other issues in addition to the divorce. The prospect of working full-time, being a mother and head of a household as well as maintaining a home was overwhelming to her. She wanted to downsize from the family home to something more manageable but didn’t want to uproot the children.

Both spouses were kind of going along with the process to reach a conclusion but without really addressing their feelings. The divorce coach was able to help the husband acknowledge his fears and try to find practical solutions to them. He began to see that the divorce really was an opportunity for him to create a new life with his children in his new home. The end result was him buying a fixer upper home in the same town so he could put his talents to work in making something special for his children.

For the wife, it helped her envision her soon-to-be ex as an ally. She ended up staying in the family home, but part of the divorce included him helping her complete some of the outstanding repairs that were needed. In addition, with her ex living in town, they were able to work she out a scenario where he picked up the kids from school several days a week. This not only eased her stress level but gave the husband more time with the kids, thus easing his fear of losing touch with the children.

Would this have been possible without the divorce coach? Maybe, but lawyers are not trained to focus on their clients’ emotions. In fact, we often try to convince our clients to put their emotions aside in order to reach a settlement. Thus, while the solution might have been the same, the divorce coach helped both parties understand how it addressed their needs, which made them both feel better about the end result. This certainly would not have happened had this divorce been settled in court through litigation.