The Collaborative Process models valuable listening skills that can be used by spouses to realize a marital settlement, facilitate co-parenting, and enable meaningful relationships.
Clients’ lives change when their divorce is finally over. Divorced spouses confront a myriad of issues that they are better able to handle from their experiences in working through the Collaborative Process. Active communication skills develop as the clients work together, with the guidance of the Collaborative professionals, to achieve a marital settlement. Since the clients’ goal was to reach a marital settlement agreement with a “win-win” result, their concerted efforts of arriving at a settlement that works for each of them through constructive communication can be achieved. Each spouse learns not just to hear what their spouse/partner has said, but to LISTEN to WHAT was being said. As each spouse listens to the other, acknowledging the other spouse’s point of view with respect results in the speaker feeling more comfortable in working with the listener. Developing active listening skills provides a deeper understanding of the other spouse between the speaker and the listener throughout repeated interactions with each other and the Collaborative Team. Once this level of respect and understanding is reached, the resolution of marital disputes or issues can more readily occur between the divorcing spouses. An example of the effectiveness of this skill was demonstrated recently when a couple, divorced for more than a year, resolved a post-divorce issue that would have brought litigating clients, post-judgment, back to court. During the Coronavirus event, a former husband lost his job and needed to reduce his child support. When he approached the former wife and presented his situation, she readily agreed to his request.
This post-divorce agreement achieved by the spouses was in stark contrast to when the spouses began to divorce. When the former wife initially sought counsel for her divorce, she told her attorney she wanted a “bulldog” and explained she was angry and hurt. It took the skill and effort of her lawyer and the other Collaborative Team professionals to enable her to move beyond the negative feelings toward her husband and to listen to him as the Collaborative Process unfolded. The former wife later acknowledged that she had never really listened to her husband during their marriage. After their divorce, the former husband commented that he felt that the former wife finally respected, heard, and understood what he was saying. The example I shared speaks to the value the Collaborative Process can provide to divorced spouses. Issues involving child support did not result in an argument between the divorced spouses but a frank discussion that enabled a satisfactory solution without acrimony. Although a Parenting Plan generally states that child support and timesharing changes requested by one parent should not be unreasonably withheld by the other spouse, those who litigated their divorce never learned to listen to the other spouse and work through unanticipated issues without fighting. Without developing the skills this couple received in the Collaborative Process, resolving post-divorce events related to the children could have disrupted their relationship with the children, with significant others, and with each other. The Collaborative Process provides divorced spouses with the ability to engage in constructive conversations about co-parenting issues and to establish meaningful relationships with their children and other individuals.