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How Collaborative Divorce in Virginia Can Help Manage the Fear of Divorce

Are you worried and fearing the divorce process? Worries and fears are based on the unknown. Collaborative Divorce can help reduce the unknowns.

Do you worry about what a judge might decide? Do you worry about access to information? Does your worry keep you from making rational decisions?  Are you a worry wart? Do you struggle with Philippians 4:6? “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” NLT

In a Collaborative Divorce, IF both parties commit to sharing all information, making shared decisions, and working with Collaboratively trained professionals, they can reach an agreement without going to court.

You and your spouse are the decision-makers in a Collaborative Divorce, not the judge.

What will the judge decide? That’s a big unknown that causes worry. The law provides structure, rules, and restrictions on what a judge can and cannot decide, but most decisions are discretionary. The judge listens carefully to the evidence on the day of your trial and makes a decision.  After months and months of preparation by attorneys, the parties, and expert witnesses, then a few hours of testimony, the judge decides your future.

In a Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse create the timeline. Parties work together with trained Collaborative Professionals in a series of meetings (in-person or virtual) to share information,  explore solutions, and reach their own agreements. Your Collaborative attorneys are hired as settlement agents, so they do not participate in contested court proceedings. They are hired to work toward an agreement acceptable to everyone.

If you and your spouse are willing to create shared solutions, then in Collaboration, you avoid the uncertainty of a judge’s decision and decide for yourselves what works best for your family.

Making your own decisions reduces the unknown.

Voluntary full disclosure is a key feature of the Collaborative Process.

How will I get information about our finances or about our children? Those are big worries, especially if one spouse has managed the finances and the other the children.

To start a Collaborative Divorce case each party hires their own Collaboratively trained attorney. Then the parties and their Collaborative attorneys meet and together carefully review a Participation Agreement with the rules and procedures for the Collaborative Divorce Process, including how information is shared and how the parties make decisions.

Parties agree to full and informal disclosure meaning they agree to provide, promptly and continually throughout the Collaborative Process, all important information related to the Collaborative matter, whether requested or not. Important information includes any information and/or documents, which either party might need to make an informed decision about each issue that needs to be resolved.

A Collaborative Team must include the parties and a Collaborative attorney for each. Additionally, Collaborative teams may include a neutral financial specialist to help gather and understand the financial information and project how various settlement options work for each party. Collaborative Divorce Coaches and Child Specialists are licensed mental health professionals who may join the Collaborative team to help you and your spouse communicate effectively, manage the emotions of divorce, and explore the needs of your children to develop a shared parenting plan.

Voluntary full disclosure of all information and help from Collaborative Professionals reduce the unknowns.

Negative emotions block rational thinking.  Collaborative Divorce has a plan for that.

Worrying about the unknown creates negative emotions, such as fear and mistrust.  Negative emotions block rational thinking. Negative emotional overload, fears, and worries impede rational decision-making.

In a Collaborative Divorce, the professionals guide the Process, and the clients decide the issues. Making rational decisions is challenging when you and your spouse are not yet on the same page about divorcing. It is a hard time to trust your spouse. Each may second-guess what the other is thinking. Each may focus on their own worries and fears and attribute evil motives to the other’s actions and statements, instead of recognizing their spouse has worries and fears too.

Hearing directly from each other about what is important AND hearing it in a safe and supportive environment lays the foundation for working well together. In Collaboration, parties and their Collaborative professionals agree they will work together and will be transparent. They agree to share interests, goals, needs, and concerns throughout the Process.

Hearing directly from your spouse and having the support of the Collaborative team increases the knowns, reduces the unknowns, and lets you make rational decisions.

Taking charge of your emotions reduces worries and fears. Collaborative Divorce can help with that.

Divorce is more than legal and financial issues. The emotional response to divorce can take on a life of its own. Do you react negatively to new or unexpected or discouraging information?

Emotional reactions to information can block rational decision-making. Take charge:

  • Treat new information as an additional resource for making an informed decision.
  • Ask questions.
  • Seek clarification.
  • Explore options.
  • Seek more information.
  • Consult the professionals. Meetings and agendas are planned to best address fears and concerns while using the information to help parties make informed decisions.
  • Share your concerns, but do not fear information or vigorous discussions.

Commit, from the beginning, to work closely with a Collaborative divorce coach to manage the emotions of divorce. This will improve your decision-making throughout the Process.

  • With your coach, learn to recognize what triggers you and what creates fears and angst.
  • Work with your coach and create strategies to remain calm.
  • Prepare with your coach in advance so you bring your best self to legal and financial meetings to make rational instead of emotional decisions.

Viewing information as a tool for decision-making and having the support of a Collaborative coach increases the knowns, reduces the unknowns, and helps you make rational decisions throughout the Collaborative Divorce Process.

Collaborative Divorce is a commitment to reduce the unknowns of worry and fears, so you stay in control, share information, and make rational decisions.

In a Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse are deciding upfront to work together to go your separate ways. Both parties and all the professionals commit to:

  • Negotiating mutually acceptable solutions without having a court decide issues;
  • Maintaining open communication and information sharing; and
  • Creating shared solutions that reflect the highest priorities for everyone in the family.

Knowing you and your spouse, with full disclosure, transparency, and the help of trained Collaborative professionals, are the ones deciding your family’s future increases the knowns and reduces the unknowns. To learn more about Collaborative Divorce and to locate Collaborative Professionals near you go to www.vacollaborativepractice.com.

Collaborative Divorce Attorney Virginia

About the Author: Cheryl Watson Smith is a Collaborative Divorce attorney and a mediator certified by the Supreme Court of Virginia. Her firm, Cheryl Watson Smith, PC is in Roanoke, Virginia. www.cwsmithpc.com  She helps clients in seeking peaceful, respectful, and durable solutions for themselves and their families through Collaboration, Mediation, or out-of-court Negotiations. So she does not accept court-contested divorce matters. Ms. Smith is a fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. She is a founding member of the Virginia Professionals (VaCP) and the Collaborative Divorce Professionals of Roanoke. She serves as chair of the Member Benefits Committee of the VaCP.

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