The very best settlement offers are sometimes rejected. Not because the parenting plan isn’t the best solution for the family. Not because the financial proposal isn’t the greatest possible outcome possible. Fantastic offers are sometimes rejected simply because people in controversy are often are controlled by their emotions, and those emotions prevent people from making rational decisions. The collaborative divorce process and the use of neutral mental health professionals can help someone make better and more effective strategic decisions.
When we are under stress, we sometimes revert to our primal fight or flight responses and when that happens, no real rational thinking can take place. The primal fight or flight instincts take over our abilities to use logic and reason. People who are overwhelmed with hurt or anger have essentially temporarily broken brains.
Lawyers are trained to give legal advice, but we have little or no formal training in how to help people deal with overwhelming emotions and how to help emotionally banged up people make their best decisions. Much of what lawyers do as a matter of routine affects people in an emotional way that is often unintended by the lawyer. Family law attorneys struggle to help clients through an emotional process while often being untrained and unqualified to address emotional issues that confront and at times overwhelm clients. Mental health professionals are uniquely trained in this area and in the collaborative divorce process they can help the parties and their lawyers be more effective in the face of overwhelming emotions.
When emotional clients revert to their primal fight or flight reactions, some people recover more quickly than others. Intervention by a mental health professional can shorten the recovery time. Mental health professionals can be helpful in bringing out the logical part of the client’s brain rather than the fight or flight response. A mental health professional can help the client be strategic and think rationally rather than being driven by the client’s need to punish the other party. Often the mere presence of the mental health professional causes people to have better behavior.
Having a mental health professional involved in the collaborative divorce process can be invaluable.
There is an expression from a book a while back that “men are from Mars and women are from Venus.” However, when men and women get divorced and experience emotional turmoil, they may communicate as if they are a lot farther away from each other than Mars and Venus. A mental health professional can serve to enforce communications ground rules, help the parties manage emotional eruptions that develop during the negotiations, and help both the parties and their lawyers communicate more constructively and more effectively with each other.
When settlement discussions hit an impasse, usually it is not because we can’t find solutions to the issues. Often it is because one or both of the parties are emotionally blocked from saying yes to a good settlement. Since emotional issues are the big roadblocks to achieving resolution, why not invite someone into the negotiating environment to help people better manage their emotions and make more effective strategic decisions?