Written by Amy Mazer, LCSWC.
My spouse was always the decision-maker in our relationship. How does Collaborative Practice ensure that my voice is heard and my needs are met?
It is common for certain dynamics to emerge in a marriage, one of them being spouses’ roles related to decision making. In some marriages both partners may share in the decision making. In other marriages the decision making may be distinguished in more traditional ways with one spouse assuming more decision making in day to day household decisions and the other spouse assuming more of the financial or long-range decisions. In still other marriages one partner may exert control over decisions in many areas. Collaborative Practice is one of the few processes that provide a forum for each spouse to articulate their needs and interests and to participate equally in the decision-making process. In preparatory meetings with a Collaborative attorney and Collaborative divorce coach a client is asked to identify their own reasons for choosing the Collaborative Process as well as their goals and interests for the process. Clients are empowered to share these reasons, goals and interests in the first team meeting, and this sets the stage for a client’s ongoing participation throughout the process. Clients are encouraged to ask questions and share ideas throughout the Collaborative Process. With the support of their Collaborative attorney and Collaborative divorce coach a client is encouraged to assert their own thoughts and ideas. It is a common practice to request a break during a Collaborative meeting so that a client can conference briefly with his/her attorney and coach; these breaks provide the support a client may need to return to the meeting to share their own ideas, needs, preferences and/or requests. Finally, a prevailing foundational principle of the Collaborative Process is that the professionals control the process and the clients control the outcome. This means that our clients are empowered from the beginning of the process to understand that the ultimate decisions are theirs to make. With the support of their Collaborative team clients who have had their voice stifled throughout their marriage are assisted to assert their own voice and choice as they participate in generating and evaluating options in order to achieve the goal of a mutually acceptable and durable agreement. For many the Collaborative Process can be a transformative process.