Category Collaborative Law

Stages of the Relationship Post Separation

Earlier we reviewed the stages of a divorce, and once the divorce is underway, the relationship too will also have stages, stages of transformation.

Yuval Berger MSW, RSW presented at the Advanced Collaborative Skills Training with the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, and he spoke about the following transformations of a relationship post separation:

1. Disintegration – “We” separated into “I”; Chaos;

2. Rebuilding separate selves;

3. Reconnection;

4. Team-up as parents;

5. Moving closer, ready to heal emotional wounds through a deeper connection.

Parties will progress through the above stages individually, but realize that most people do not reach Stage 5.  Most do not reach Stage 5 because most people have moved on and either began dating or found a new focus in their lives. 

Navigating through the various stages takes time. This is a reason why it can be harmful to rush into a divorce and be subject to the court’s clock.  Parties need time to go through the transformation in order to coherently and honestly discuss how to develop a future plan for their family.  And that is essentially what occurs during a divorce or separation: people are developing a future plan for their family. Maybe that is how lawyers should start referring to the settlement agreement: “the future plan for your family.”  All too often lawyers forget it is a future plan and just want to push through a settlement of past issues.  This is problematic for many reasons, and it is unlikely that a rushed settlement will be one that the family can follow for any significant amount of time.Time is what parties need and time is what parties can have in mediation and the collaborative process.   

Next week, we’ll discuss the stages and how each stage impacts the divorce/separation process in greater detail.

Emotional Stages of Divorce

Similar to the grieving process, there are emotional stages that a person will go through upon learning that their marriage is over.  The team members of your divorce can help you as you work through the following stages:

1. Shock and disbelief;

2. Initial adjustment;

3. Active reorganization;

4. Life reformation.

Each person moves through the above stages at their own pace. Some individuals move through each stage 1-4 and some individuals may move forward and backward through the stages.  While there is no way to accurately label what stage a person is in, it is important to be familiar with the stages of divorce as it can influence the ability to negotiate a divorce settlement.  A divorce coach, mental health professional, and lawyer can help you identify and move through the stages.  Such skills wills help you to develop a plan for how to move forward appropriately in the divorce based on which stage can be attributed to you or your spouse.

What does pre- and post-decree mean?

In the world of divorce professionals, language such as pre-decree and post-decree is used.  This can confuse clients and potential clients.

Pre-decree includes anything that occurs prior to the finalization of the divorce.  It can include mediation, evaluations, drafting of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Drafting the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, drafting the Marital Settlement Agreement.  It can also include pretrial motions (orders of protection, restraining orders, petitions for temporary custody, etc) and pretrial conferences with a judge.

Post-decree matters start after the judge signs the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage and can include enforcement of the Marital Settlement Agreement or Judgment, modification of the Judgment, wage garnishment orders, Qualified Medical Child Support Orders, Qualified Domestic Relations Order (divide certain retirement accounts), Qualified Illinois Domestic Relations Order (divide certain retirement accounts – such as for a teacher).

If you are retaining an attorney for an uncontested divorce or a collaborative divorce, discuss what pre-decree and post-decree mean with your lawyer. The attorney and the client need to be on the same page so there are no fee related surprises.

Addiction and the Family Unit

What should you do if you realize that your spouse or ex-spouse is abusing or addicted to alcohol or drugs? Options for a family in transition are collaborative practices or traditional litigation when substance addiction or abuse is an issue for a family. Both options are discussed below.

As long as all parties and children are safe, it is possible to use collaborative law services if the spouse or ex is in therapy/rehab and sober for a period of time.  The person needs time to learn healthy coping skills and to feel emotions again.  Such skills are needed to engage in meaningful negotiations.  This person should also have a strong support group: an attorney, a coach, a therapist, and family/friends.  

There are several benefits of using collaborative practices, however one benefit that has been important to clients is that the drug use (past or present)will not become public (but if there is a pending criminal case it is already public) and thus is less likely to jeopardize the persons employment. It is also less likely to cause the person to be defensive which may interfere with their recovery.  The collaborative approach will help the parties to create a visitation schedule that allows the party with the addiction to heal and continue a relationship with the family and child/children. Team members and professionals can help the parties to determine boundaries and goals that will help facilitate a safe and meaningful relationship with children.  

Often in family litigation, if this situation arises, visitation is suspended. No time is used to develop a plan to help repair the family. This can hurt the parent and the child/children.  But in a collaborative setting,  a professional counselor and child coach can help the family deal with the substance issue and help create an agreement, whether its temporary or permanent, that can help the family through this difficult time.

Sometimes, the disease of addiction is such that a parent is not fit to be around family or children.  If this is the case, an intervention can be planned or hospitalization or inpatient treatment should be evaluated.  When a person is not fit to care for themselves, the family, or children, the collaborative process should not be initiated, but if so it should be suspended or altogether stopped. 

If the collaborative approach is not acceptable to both parties or is not safe because the drug use is current and the person is not able to make decisions, the traditional adversarial system (litigation) should be considered and used.  Typically in litigation, an emergency motion to modify visitation and/or custody is filed with the court.  A hearing date will be selected by the party or attorney filing the emergency motion.  On the initial hearing date, the court needs to decide if the issue is an emergency.  If the court deems the issue an emergency, the court will proceed that day on the hearing on the petition to modify and enter a temporary order and then set the matter for a hearing date when all parties can be present. The temporary order may modify the visitation schedule, suspend visitation, or require supervised visitation.  If the court does not deem the issue an emergency, it will not enter a temporary order, but rather it will enter an order that sets a future date to hear the petition to modify.  If a criminal case is pending, the court may decide to set the hearing on the petition to modify at a later date when the criminal case is either resolved or at least under way.  Criminal cases can take a long time to resolve, a temporary order may be entered subject to the outcome of the criminal case.

When addiction or substance abuse affects the family unit, it is best to consult with a professional so that you can determine what needs to be done to protect your family and children