Our world is more politically divided than at any time in recent memory and that can make collaborating more difficult, especially when there is an election coming up soon. Political differences can exist between clients, within the team, or between the team and clients. Don’t despair, it’s possible to collaborate successfully even when we don’t agree about political issues. However, there are several things the collaborative team can do to make the process work smoothly during these difficult times.
Avoid Discussing Politics. Don’t voice your own political opinions or discuss sensitive topics that are likely to create disagreements among the team of clients. You never know when other professionals or your clients may take offense; don’t assume everyone in the room agrees with your political biases. Don’t ask--don’t tell is a good policy.
Political Uncertainty. Uncertainty about political issues such as health care or taxes may cause anxiety and distress among our clients. For example, what will happen with health care in the future? Will we have universal care for all funded by the government? Will the ACA be revised? What will be the availability and affordability of health care after the election? Will children be able to stay on their parent’s health care plan until age 18 or older? If so, for how long? Will the recently passed tax rates be changed if there is a new administration next year? Will the mortgage interest deduction be available or capped? Will property taxes still be deductible? Will tax brackets and rates change? What about child care deductions or credits? How will these issues affect spousal support or property division? The neutral financial professional can help clients gather more information and make informed decisions about how these issues may affect their divorce. Some clients may need a referral to a tax specialist.
What Are Their Options? Educate your clients about options if they are currently divorcing. They can go ahead and divorce now under present tax and health care conditions and revisit the issues if there are changes in the future. Alternatively, they can wait until after the election and then divorce once they have a clear idea about what is likely to happen. Encourage your clients to return to the collaborative process if taxes or health care options change significantly. They can submit updated financial information and discuss how changes in the law may affect their property division or spousal support obligations.
Be Factual and Neutral. Remember, it’s the client’s case and their choices about how to proceed. Be careful not to let your own political biases intrude into their decision making—that can compromise your neutrality.
What if Clients Discuss Politics? If a client raises a political issue, the best procedure is to politely listen and then redirect them to areas of specific concern, such as health care, taxes, or property division. Ask your clients to make proposals about their concerns and discuss these proposals rather than arguing about politics.
Parenting and Politics. Every parent wants their children to agree with them about their political beliefs. A parent has the right to express their political opinions to their children, but not the right to pressure the children into agreeing with either parent. The team should be relied upon to guide parents when there is disagreement about how to deal with political issues and children. Explain to your clients that it’s fine to expose children to differing views about political issues, but it’s not healthy to pressure a child to believe in a certain way. Children should be allowed to develop their own views about political issues, religion, sports, and other areas of life. An overbearing parent can be destructive of children.
In summary, avoid discussing sensitive political issues during a collaborative divorce. If political issues do arise, listen politely and then redirect the discussion toward a specific issue that needs resolving. Avoid raising or arguing about political topics, because that will inflame an already difficult situation.