Figures in the Shadows: A Reflection on Third Party Interests in the Separation Process

A common topic which pops up throughout various mediation and negotiation trainings I have attended is how we as professionals are to screen and mitigate the influences of outside “shadow” figures who exert their influence over the decisions made by the parties directly in negotiation. 

The Drama Associated With Divorce

Often times in family law, those “shadow” figures are comprised of well meaning friends and family members.  More often than not, the separating parties look for advice, support, guidance, and an audience for venting about how awful their soon to be ex partner is.  Close friends and family, either out of politeness or true belief in the separating spouse they are close to usually inadvertently play into escalating the drama around a divorce.  Everyone has advice to impart, but that advice is seldom rooted in realism around the court system and a big picture approach to the whole family’s future.

Divorce Negotiations

For example, in negotiations around the Collaborative table, both spouses insist they must have the house, neither willing to budge, creating a stand still in the process.  Upon meeting with their Divorce Coaches, it is revealed that the Husband wants the house because his father, who lost their family home in a divorce, has been in his ear about not repeating his mistakes and has equated the Husband losing the house to him losing his manhood and dignity.  Meanwhile, the Wife wants the house, even though she is unable to financially maintain it securely on her own, because her friends have steadily encouraged her to take her Husband “for all he’s worth” because she deserves it after the affair.

In court, these “positions” very often end up costing both parties significantly, as well as creating further polarization and diminishing the  likelihood of a healthy co-parent relationship.  In Collaborative, we are able to address these “positions” in a much healthier approach through the use of Divorce Coaches and attorneys trained in mediation and the Collaborative Process.  These professionals know how to help the parties identify their own feelings, needs, and motivations and separate them from those being fed by outside parties.  Once these emotions are understood, a clearer, more sustainable agreement usually comes to light and becomes agreeable to everyone. 

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