Sound decision-making is crucial. And, never more important than during divorce. Decisions during divorce have lasting effects on the mental, emotional, and financial well-being of the parties, children and families. The reality is that divorce litigation does not lend itself to principles of sound decision-making.
Let me explain.
Four Pitfalls of Decision Making
In the book Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, Chip and Dan Heath identify four pitfalls of decision-making. First, people consider too few options. Sometimes, people see it as either or. For example, either we do standard visitation, or its 50/50. This is what the authors identify as “spotlight thinking”. In divorce, parties and attorneys and judges see everything in terms of what the law allows and what the judge can do.
Second, people only look for evidence to support their ideas. Parties to a divorce cultivate relationships with people who reinforce an idea, as in “I deserve full custody”, for example. They shut out those who suggest any other possibility. Clients refuse to consider any evidence contrary to existing beliefs. Attorneys and hired experts play into this thinking.
Short-term emotions result in choices today that people will regret later. Simply wanting it to be over, for example. Fear is another. Agreeing to a mediated settlement at the end of a long day of negotiation, fearful that the agreement will disappear if it is not completed today. Or, agreeing to a settlement immediately prior to trial, fearing that either the offer will be withdrawn at trial or the judge will make an unfavorable ruling.
Finally, parties are over-confident about how the future will unfold. In reaching an agreement, the parties will not consider “What if” things don’t go as planned. One example, is betting that a new relationship is going to be the solution to all problems. Parties fail to consider that a relationship beginning in the midst of divorce may not work out in the long run.
WRAP to Make Better Decisions
The authors offer the acronym WRAP to identify four ways to make better decisions:
- WIDEN the scope of thinking to include more options.
In the collaborative process, far more options can be considered and explored. People choose collaborative because the litigation process fixates on only what the courts can do. Collaborative offers more…more time, more options, more win/win thinking.
2. Always REALITY TEST thinking.
The collaborative team is trained in moving clients past “all or nothing” thinking and creating positive communication strategies. The team supports clients in recognizing the extreme nature of certain positions and demands in light of the reality of the law and the collaborative process. In contrast, litigation provides no team, no training, no incentive and no “reality check”, except the judge’s ruling after a lengthy and costly process.
3. ATTAIN distance when making a crucial decision.
Step away, take some time, settle emotions, and reflect calmly. With litigation, decisions are made under deadlines, great stress and extreme emotions, with little time to think calmly. The collaborative process allows as much time as the parties need to make a well-reasoned decision.
4. It is important to PLAN for failure.
Consider that assumptions made today are invalid. What does the current plan look like? Under the collaborative model, teams are trained to assist clients in examining these assumptions rigorously and asking, “What if these assumptions are wrong? What then? Does this option have a back-up plan?” Under the litigated model, these questions generally aren’t asked. Clients are allowed to go “all-in” without any regard to “What if”.
Collaborative divorce: better decisions for a better divorce.
Kurt Chacon is a CDC certified divorce coach in north Dallas and a collaborative divorce attorney. He is a member of Denton County Collaborative Professionals, Collaborative Divorce Texas, and can be reached at www.divorcedifferently.org and on Facebook at divorcedifferently.