“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius
Divorce is often a confusing, anxious time. People often report feeling as if they are the mercy of “the system”, the law, their spouse, the attorneys, or the courts in their divorce. This feeling of helplessness and loss of control only exacerbates the already difficult feelings of loss, grief, and worry that come with any divorce.
Ironically, people frequently respond to these feelings by relinquishing more control and letting their attorneys and the courts take over their divorce process. They are consulted periodically, but the attorneys handle the financial analysis, the negotiation, the strategic decision making and the other important parts of a divorce case. The courts dictate the what, when and where.
In my view, this is counterproductive because it only adds to the feelings of anxiety and loss of control. It provides a short-term feeling of relief because it takes some things off of your plate in the short term.
But, long-term, it leads to less satisfactory outcomes for clients. First, when you are not involved in the details of your divorce process, then you are far less likely to like your outcome over time. You will not remember the decision-making process that led you to your outcome. That may cause you to look back on your process and your outcome with confusion and doubt. Second, when you are intimately involved in your divorce process, you will have far more understanding of the financial, legal and personal dynamics at play in your divorce. You will not have to take your attorney’s word for what is going on and the possible solutions. Instead, you will be processing it as it happens and be involved in generating the solutions to the issues. That typically means that you will have a fuller understanding of how and why you reached the solutions that will shape your post-divorce life. In my experience that leads to clients feeling more in control, more satisfied, and less victimized after their divorce. Third, many clients grow frustrated because so much of the work an attorney does is outside of the presence of the client. A client will get a bill, but not have actually seen the work performed because they are largely detached from the work itself. In a collaborative process, the client is sitting beside their attorney for much of the time and has immediate knowledge of what their attorney is doing and how they are doing it. There is much less “mystery time” involved in your legal fees when you are an active participant in your case.
Certainly, some cases require you to involve the courts and litigation attorneys. And no one gets to dictate the terms of their divorce just as they would like.
But, there are enormous benefits to being an active participant in, and having a thorough understanding of the decisions and the decision-making process of your divorce. The only way that I know to do that is to participate in a divorce process that involves you not delegating the analysis, problem-solving and decision making, but rather taking an active role with your attorney in those facets. You do, and you understand.