Jane-Ashley McMillan, Attorney at Law

Anticipating triggers that can doom collaboration

Divorce is seldom easy, and it often comes at the end of a difficult effort to make a marriage work. You may be well aware of the tension and struggles you have gone through, and you certainly do not want to take on more anxiety by going through a contentious courtroom divorce.

If you have opted to try collaborative law to end your marriage, you already know that this method of dispute resolution does not have a judge or mediator keeping the process under control. It will be up to you and your spouse to maintain a forward momentum, and this may mean recognizing those factors that may spark a battle.

Know your spouse, know yourself

Despite your desires to keep your divorce amicable, be prepared for the fact that it may not be all smiles and hugs. The same issues and differences that triggered emotional outbursts during your marriage will likely have the same effect as you negotiate your divorce settlement. You can keep your collaborative divorce on track with careful evaluation of and preparation for this possibility. Some steps you can take include the following:

  • Reflect on the issues, words or actions throughout your marriage that evoked an emotional or explosive reaction in your spouse.
  • List the signs you have noticed in your spouse that indicate he or she may be nearing dangerous territory.
  • Share these triggers with your attorney so he or she can be aware of them throughout the process.
  • Warn the participants in your collaboration whenever you are approaching issues that are especially explosive for you and your ex.
  • Recognize the signs and triggers in yourself so that you do not lose control at a critical moment in negotiations.
  • Practice controlling the tone of your voice, facial expressions and body language to avoid sending volatile messages to your ex.
  • Learn ways to calm yourself with deep breathing or other distractions when you feel emotions rising during discussions.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for a break if you feel you may become emotional or if your spouse is goading you into a fight.

You may find some of these suggestions difficult, and for the success of your collaborative divorce, you may find it helpful to reach out for counseling or support from other sources. One of the most important resources you can have is the support of a legal advisor who is familiar with Texas collaborative law and dedicated to the success of your efforts.

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