Divorce is an emotionally difficult process. This is true even if both spouses want the divorce. The divorce process can be less stressful for couples that choose the Collaborative Divorce process. One of the first things that happens in a Collaborative Divorce case is that each party begins to work with their own divorce coach.
The Role of the Divorce Coach
The divorce coach is a licensed mental health professional who is a communications specialist listening to the concerns of their client. The coach learns to understand the client, their background, their values, their marriage, and what they want for their future. They assist their client in developing strategies to move effectively through their separation and divorce. Coaching is not the same as therapy. It is focused on short-term constructive problem solving
The Intention Statement
After the coaches have met individually with their clients and the Participation Agreement has been signed in the first team meeting with attorneys, the two coaches and two clients meet together. The coaches help the couple develop an intention statement for the divorce. This is like a mission statement and includes what is important to both parties and what they agree on.
For example, they may include issues like:
- We want to be financially secure.
- We want to have good relationships with our adult children.
- We want to effectively co-parent our minor children.
- We want to remain civil with each other through this process and beyond.
Once they have agreed on their intention statement and committed it to writing, it is sent to the rest of the team which includes the two attorneys, financial specialist, and any other professionals that are involved. The intention statement is a snapshot of what the couple wants to achieve and is read out loud at the beginning of every meeting.
Coaches Help Prepare the Parenting Plan
When there are minor children, the two coaches help the clients put together a workable parenting plan. The plan can be general, including things the parents agree on, or it can be very elaborate. It depends entirely on the couple’s decisions.
When the parenting plan is complete, it is sent to the attorneys to be included in the final marital settlement agreement. The attorneys will make sure the plan includes the correct legal information.
Coaches Help the Divorce Process Flow Smoothly
Because meetings about finances, spousal support or developing a parenting plan for minor children can be stressful, the coaches check in with their client to prepare them for the meeting and answer any questions. This helps reduce anxiety. It is easy for a meeting to get derailed if a client gets so angry, they cannot focus on the meeting and what needs to be accomplished. The coach steps in immediately and may ask for a short break to talk with their client. The coach then helps the client to calm down and come up with strategies for when they may be emotionally triggered in the future. The client gains confidence, competence, and resilience. The meeting can continue and end with a productive outcome. The coaches also check in with their client soon after a meeting to see how they are doing and if there are any lingering questions or concerns.
For more information about divorce coaches and the Collaborative Divorce process, contact Betsey Williams, M.S., LMFT.