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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Constructive divorce relies on adults dealing with adults


I read back through some of my recent blogs yesterday, as I frequently do, looking for things I have mentioned in passing and meant to follow up. What I noticed though was that I seem to have been talking about people being civilised and “adult” about divorce quite a lot. And this got me thinking (which is always a dangerous thing).

I think most people would agree that the concept of collaborative law is a good one: two people who have decided to go their separate ways signing up to a way of dealing with the details in a non-confrontational way and using lawyers specially trained in working in this way. When it works, it keeps couples out of court (which can avoid additional costs) and allows them to settle arrangements for things like the finances and contact with children in an adult manner. And it is this last point that is key, for if everyone acted in an adult manner in divorce it would cut the time, cost and hassle for everyone involved, whether they go down the official collaborative route or not.

If you look at a bit of transactional analysis (of which my knowledge is limited, admittedly, but I get the basics) everyone in every situation behaves as either adult, parent or child. In a divorce, you both need to act like adults to discuss the issues, agree a solution and move on. If only one acts like the adult and the other plays the role of either parent or child, it is less likely to go well. The parent will be trying to tell you what to do and the child will be stamping their feet and saying it’s not fair, or dodging the issues entirely. If both adopt the parent persona, nothing will get solved as both are telling the other how it should be and attempting to treat them like a child. And if we have two children in the room, there is likely to be more shouting and the possibility of a fight is much higher.

Even if you have a parent and a child in the room, you may get something sorted, but it will not necessarily be a fair outcome as one has dictated to the other what will happen.

So, while this may be analysing the relationships more than we need to, the fact remains that the only way to ensure a grown up outcome is to have two adults in the room – ideally at the same time.

Andrew Woolley
Family solicitor


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Andrew, you hit the nail right on the head!
There is a great assumption that because someone looks grown up on the outside they are also grown up on the inside. Separation and divorce threaten some basic fundamental human drivers for safety, security and unconditional love. When our very life is at risk we do not have the capacity to engage our thinking brain but instead rely on our life preserving reactive brain. The behaviour seen is often considered angry, abusive, childlike or worse. Until we help people deal with the underlying visceral threat we have no chance of them behaving remotely like adults.
Those couples who do behave like two adults have already dealt with the underlying emotional issues and have found some security in their future to work towards.
Suggesting every couple must go through mediation is like suggesting two hungry lions sit down and discuss how they are going to share out a dead mouse! And of course considering first and foremost the needs of their children. No wonder it doesn’t happen.
Rant over.
Thanks for realising the missing part….

By Nigel Heath on Tuesday March 20, 2012

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