My Collaborative colleagues and I often wish that our clients could clone themselves so they could see how their exact case would simultaneously play out in the litigation process and compare the outcomes to what they achieve in the Collaborative Divorce Process. Many people don’t realize just how crazy and incendiary the litigation process can be.
We had a case a while back which illustrates my point beautifully. In this case, in the course of his meetings with his divorce coach, Husband revealed that not only did he have a mistress, but that she was currently pregnant with his child. He had neglected to tell Wife (or his attorney) because when he had been initially interviewing attorneys, a high power “pit bull” litigator advised that he keep the situation hidden until the divorce was finalized so as to not incite his Wife’s anger or vengefulness, and that once his child with the mistress turned 4 or 5, they could work on integrating this new child with the children he had with this Wife.
The Collaborative Divorce Process is built on open disclosure and trust. As such, the professionals in the case can withdraw at any time, terminating the process, if they feel that these principles are being violated. After many long discussions with the team, and guidance from his divorce coach on how to tackle the delicate and tricky subject, Husband confessed the situation to his Wife in a 6-way meeting with the attorneys and coaches. As she had suspected the affair (though not the resulting pregnancy), this proved to be a catalyst moment for the Wife to finally feel that her Husband was being honest with her, and for Husband to be free of the guilt and secrecy that had tormented him through a sincere and heartfelt apology to Wife for what had transpired, allowing them both of them to move forward and focus on what their new realities would look like and how to best accommodate the needs of their children.
I ran into Wife several years after the divorce was finalized, and she had nothing but positive things to say about their co-parenting and blended family. I always marvel at what would have happened and how very differently things would have played out with this couple if the Husband had followed the other attorneys advice. Not only would they have missed the opportunity to build trust and re-focus on the future, I believe he would be tormented to this day by hiding something so significant from not only his Wife, but also his children and what that would mean for the family.