A Collaborative Law Success Story is a four-part video series describing a successful resolution of a divorce between John and Diane through the Collaborative Law process. Below is Part 1 and the transcript for Part 1:
Meet John and Diane. John was married to Diane and they have two sons, Danny age 12, and Michael age 8. John is a plumber and he's the president and owner of his own plumbing business. Diane is a teacher.
John and Diane recently got divorced and chose the Collaborative Law process to settle their case outside of court. Their first few meetings with the team went smoothly and they both feel pleased that their sons seem to be doing well.
However, recently Diane brought her boyfriend home for dinner without telling John ahead of time. He was furious. He wrote Diane an angry e-mail after Michael told him about the dinner: “Diane, I can’t believe you. How could you introduce the kids to him right now. I hope you’re ready for a fight because that was the last straw. There is no way any judge will be OK with what you did. My kids will be living with me from now on.”
Diane sent the e-mail to the coach and called her to ask for help: “He's been ridiculous and I can't believe he threatened to take my babies away. I don't know if we can be collaborative anymore.”
“Diane, I know it may seem that way right now but we won't know if we can settle this issue if we don't try. I will reach out to John and see if he's willing to schedule a meeting if you still are.”
Diane agreed to give it one more shot. When the coach spoke with John he had calmed down a little and agreed to schedule a meeting with the coach. The coach met with both parties together. They addressed the communication guidelines and John apologized for his reaction but he was still upset at Diane and thought she should apologize too.
Diane had very different beliefs than John about what is normal in a divorce regarding significant others and Diane thought John was overreacting. They agreed that they would both be interested to hear what their lawyers thought was normal.
The coach conveyed this information to the lawyers prior to the next full 5-way meeting and the lawyers and coach discussed how they would present what is normal. They all agreed that in a court case the boyfriend meeting the children probably would've been too early and while a Judge wouldn't likely take the children away from Diane, she could be prohibited from having the children around her boyfriend for a period of time.
They also discussed the strong feelings that one of the lawyers had. She believed that the meeting was wrong and harmful, and the team discussed whether expressing that personal opinion would be helpful or not. She decided not to express her personal opinion after discussing with the team in order to let John and Diane's own choices about their values guide the process.
Each lawyer met with their clients separately prior to the meeting to prepare them for this difficult discussion. Diane's lawyer discussed with her how she could express constructively her feelings that John is trying to control her and John's lawyer discussed with him how he could express his concerns about the children without getting angry.
Having been well prepared, John and Diane discussed their feelings in a calm manner and with some help from the coach, were able to express themselves with a minimum of interruption. Hearing how John felt when Michael told him about meeting Diane's boyfriend, Diane felt bad and apologized for not discussing the meeting with John ahead of time. John was surprised that Diane apologized.
John was still upset that Diane didn't take it seriously enough but they were now able to discuss how they would handle future meetings with significant others and they both finished the conversation feeling like they had more control and had been heard.
More importantly they now had the experience of dealing with a difficult issue, an experience they can draw on when they have other parenting disputes. If John had instead obtained a temporary order from court prohibiting future contact with Diane's boyfriend, they would've had no plan for what to do when that order expired, and pretty much guaranteed that when they disagreed again they'd be back in court.
This is a typical success story of Collaborative Law and it is our hope that more people will solve conflicts with this type of success.