When a new divorce client comes to your office to discuss his or her options and decides to do a collaborative divorce, how can you convince the other spouse to consider the collaborative process rather than opting for an adversarial divorce? There are five things you can do to engage the other spouse in the collaborative process: give him or her a list of collaborative attorneys to consider, suggest a meeting of the collaborative attorneys before committing to the collaborative process, recommend both spouses attend a discussion of divorce options in Texas, prepare your client for an initial “no” from his or her spouse, and give your client resources to share with his or her spouse about the collaborative process and how it benefits the family.
Give a List of Collaborative Attorneys to the Other Spouse. If you are a member of a practice group and have worked with other collaborative attorneys, give your client a list of three names for his or her spouse to interview. Ask your client about the personal traits of his or her spouse so you can choose collaborative attorneys who will work well with the other spouse. Guiding the other spouse to the proper collaborative attorney will make both of them more comfortable with the process. Make sure your client communicates to his or her spouse that the collaborative process is not about winning or losing, but about finding a settlement that meets the needs of both parties. Give the other spouse contact information for the collaborative attorneys and let him or her know he or she is free to choose any attorney for representation.
Suggest a Meeting of the Collaborative Attorneys Before Committing to the Collaborative Process. Recommend holding a short meeting with your client, the other attorney, and the other spouse to get acquainted and discuss agreeing to do a collaborative divorce. This first meeting will help the clients see that the collaborative attorneys are well trained, have the same basic goals, and can work well together to resolve their divorce issues.
Suggest the Spouses Attend a Discussion of Divorce Options in Texas. Suggest both spouses attend a Divorce Options workshop to receive information about the various ways to divorce in Texas. They can learn about the benefits and problems with the kitchen table approach, mediation, litigation, arbitration, and the collaborative divorce process from a neutral expert.
Prepare Your Client for an Initial “no.” The other spouse may not trust your client and may say “no” automatically because he or she is angry or in denial about the likelihood of a divorce. Suggest to your client that the other spouse may need time for study or research before changing his or her mind. The other spouse may need the opportunity to cool down before he or she can think about options for divorce in a rational way. Assure your client that it’s okay to suggest a collaborative divorce and then wait a few days before reengaging with his or her spouse.
Give Your Client Resources to Share with His or Her Spouse. Most people considering a divorce don’t know very much about the collaborative process and they need help learning how the process works. Give your client booklets, information, a website to visit, and a list of books he or she can read. Harry Munsinger has written a short book entitled Texas Divorce Guide that will help clients understand a Texas divorce. Invite your client to share this information with his or her spouse and answer any questions your client may have about how to present the material to his or her spouse.