There are a number of reasons to terminate a collaborative divorce if it’s not going well, including if the clients are unhappy, the team dynamics are impeding settlement, a team member or the clients are not prepared for meetings, your client can’t make a decision about what he or she wants to do, a client or team member is becoming angry or aggressive, and most important, you feel the case is not progressing.
A Client is Unhappy. If a client expresses dissatisfaction with the collaborative process, try to identify and discuss his or her concerns with the clients and the entire team. Brain storm with the team and discuss wither the collaborative process is right for this couple. Common problems include the pace of progress, not addressing the client’s important or pressing issues, and failing to deal with an emotional blockage on the part of a client.
Team Dynamics Impede Settlement. Sometimes the personal chemistry among team members can be a problem in the collaborative divorce process. If tensions within the team seems to be a problem, discuss each member’s concerns within the professional team and take them seriously. Try to refocus the team on client issues and shift them away from their own interpersonal tensions. Consider whether a team member is too identified with one client and is projecting his or her own issues into the case. You may have to consider replacing one or more team members to develop a functional professional collaborative team.
A Team Member or Client Is Not Prepared. Sometimes a team member or a client doesn’t do his or her homework and shows up at a joint meeting unprepared to proceed. If it’s a team member problem, discuss with the entire team whether the member is willing and able to change his or her behavior. If not, replace the team member immediately. If a client is not prepared, ask his or her attorney to raise the issue and try to discover what is the problem. If it’s an emotional issue, refer the client to a counselor to deal with his or her feelings. Finally, perhaps you should consider setting more realistic deadlines.
A Client Can’t Make A Decision. Getting a divorce is a difficult emotional adjustment and sometimes it takes clients extra time to make decisions. Making choices about finances or the children can be especially difficult for emotionally fragile clients. Sometimes all it takes is postponing the decision for a few days to give the client time to sleep on it. Try having the client talk with a neutral financial professional or mental health professional about money or the children. Most of all, be patient and don’t pressure him or her to make an instant choice. Give the client time to be comfortable with the final decision.
A Client or Team Member Becomes Aggressive. Anger can be a big problem, even in a collaborative divorce. In the middle of an emotional issue, a client may become angry or aggressive toward his spouse or a team member. Immediately call a time out to make certain the other spouse or team member feels safe. Usually, all that’s needed is a cooling off interval before resuming the discussion.
The Case Is Not Progressing. Sometimes a collaborative case just doesn’t seem to go anywhere, no matter how hard you try to move it along and how many times you discuss potential solutions with your team. Perhaps the team made an error thinking the couple was suitable for a collaborative divorce. More likely the parties didn’t understand the collaborative process, and you need to revisit the expectations of conduct and the road map to resolution to make certain they understand what’s expected of them. Perhaps the parties don’t understand how to compromise and need to be instructed in give-and-take negotiation. Sometimes referral to an alternative dispute resolution process is appropriate, such as mediation of traditional litigation. Not every case settles during the collaborative process.