As a young person, I came of age during the end of the Cold War. During this time, the United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in an arm’s race with each other that involved an ever-increasing stock pile of nuclear weaponry. The ability to utterly destroy each other ten times or perhaps even a hundred times over was part of a military strategy and national security policy called “MAD,” an acronym for “Mutually Assured Destruction”.
The theory was that the use of nuclear weapons by one side would result in retaliatory nuclear strikes by the other and, ultimately, to the complete annihilation of both attacker and defender. Neither side could win such a conflict; therefore, both counties were deterred from initiating the use of nuclear weapons. In 1989, the world breathed a collective sigh of relief with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent dissolution of the USSR. Subsequent treaties between the United States and Russia led to the substantial dismantlement of the huge and aging nuclear arsenals each country possessed.
I share this historical reflection because I think it is illustrative of an often less talked about, but nevertheless, legitimate reason that some couples have used to decide to go into the collaborative process to resolve their divorce. There are many “positives” that may encourage couples to choose a collaborative divorce. However, sometimes avoiding the “negatives,” which include the recognition that battling at the courthouse and airing significant mutual “dirty laundry” could lead to their own “mutually assured destruction,” can be a very compelling reason for a couple to go collaborative too.
Court hearings and trials risk the exposure of information on the public record that could be damaging to a spouse’s career and business interests, attract unwanted attention of the Internal Revenue Service or creditors, tarnish one or both spouses’ reputation in the community, and push friends, family, and even the couple’s children to “choose sides” leading to irreparable harm to relationships.
The collaborative process encourages divorcing spouses to be “future focused” and to work together for all of the positive aspects that may be available through a collaborative divorce: supporting family relationships, maximizing financial outcomes and working towards resolutions that are focused on children’s best interest. An equally legitimate reason to choose the collaborative route may be when a couple recognizes that privacy is important and that publicly litigating their divorce risks their mutually assured destruction.
Collaborative professionals can and should endeavor to creatively work with couples in these circumstances just as diligently as those couples seeking the more “positive” opportunities available through a collaborative divorce. Annihilate or collaborate? The theory of MAD makes a compelling case for the latter!