At the beginning of a divorce, you have to choose which path to take. I think of this choice every time I see this sign in Arizona, where Bloody Basin Road is one direction, and Tranquil Trail goes the opposite way. It’s much like the choice at the beginning of a divorce.
I once met a woman who had gone through a highly-contested divorce, followed by 3 years of court battles after the divorce was final. Her story is a cautionary tale of what happens when decisions at the beginning are made out of fear.
Her divorce began when her husband came home on a Friday and announced that he had fallen in love with someone else and wanted a divorce. He packed a bag and moved out of the house. She was shocked, hurt, angry and scared. She was a stay-at-home mom, and she didn’t know how she would be able to take care of herself financially.
When she called her family, they reacted out of fear: “You better move money out of your joint bank account before he cleans it out, and you’re left with nothing.” Panic kicked in, so she went to a bank first thing Saturday morning to open a new individual account with their joint funds. And she decided her best move was to hire an aggressive litigator who would fight to protect her.
Her husband found out on Monday that she moved their money out of the joint account. He was shocked, hurt, angry – and also scared. “How could she do this? I have always provided for this family, and she made a unilateral decision to take our savings. She is going to take me for everything I have in this divorce. “ And he decided his best move was to hire an aggressive litigator who would fight to protect him.
Once they lawyered up, they were off to the races, tearing down Bloody Basin Road. They each spent several hundred thousand dollars in legal fees. I wonder: How protected did they feel? How protected did their children feel?
I also wonder how this might have been different. What if they didn’t stake out their fear-based positions at the outset? Imagine if they had attorneys trained in collaborative practice
who could say, “Slow down. Let’s keep the status quo with your finances and give you both a chance to understand your options before anyone starts taking action.” Imagine if they had a divorce coach
who could help them focus on their long-term goals for the family. Imagine if they had a child specialist who could keep them focused on how to support their children, rather than tearing each other apart. I believe they would have had a better chance of actually protecting themselves if they had used a collaborative process to manage the fear and conflict. They might have been able to drive down Tranquil Trail.
More Collaborative Law Posts