Increasingly in recent years, couples seeking an amicable divorce have chosen mediation as a way to avoid a nasty escalation into an expensive, attorney driven legal battle. This works for many families. However, anecdotal research shows that other folks still want more than a neutral mediator; an advocate in their corner. In a collaborative divorce, a settle out of court option, each party has their own attorney who advocates for them, but not at the expense of their partner. Collaborative divorce is conducted in the spirit of mediation with the goal of maintaining respect, safety and hope for the future for both husband and wife through out the process.
Divorcing has often required financial support for women as they re-enter the workforce, usually after many years at home caring for children. Increasingly, in our modern world, there are stay-at-home dads in the same situation. And unfortunately, they may have also experienced a devaluation of their talents and skills, as someone who didn’t receive an income for work done during the marriage, which can leave them feeling vulnerable and one down as they enter the negotiation process.
Women and men who are financially vulnerable are supported by the collaborative team, which includes a vocational expert who provides supportive counseling to the stay at home spouse while clarifying their interests, values and skills and helps to understand their need for training and potential earning capacity. The assessment works for both spouses, helping to identity the career path that would be best for the person re-entering the workplace, as well as the amount and duration of financial assistance needed as they transition to being more self-supporting. The thoughts and feelings of the spouse who will be contributing to support payments are also solicited as realistic and doable arrangements are the goal.
In traditional litigation the stay at home spouse is frequently evaluated by a vocational expert to determine their potential earnings as both sides prepare to settle and/or go to court. Sometimes both the husband and wife team will pay for an expert to forecast the career path that would be best, or earn the most, for the person re-entering the workplace. These proceedings often do not include the feelings and choices of the person being evaluated and can become quite contentious as the supporting party seeks to lower monthly payments. The vulnerable spouse can experience extreme anxiety, a sense of having no control over their future.
The vocational coach in a collaborative process seeks to empower the stay at home spouse. The client is engaged and supported through career testing, homework and exploratory exercises that develop and reinforce their emerging identity as a single person and their choices for the life that is to come. The collaborative process which is facilitated by professionals outside the court, but not the legal system promotes real growth; personal and career progress evidenced by a renewed sense of self, self-confidence, purpose, hope and excitement about the options being explored.
Gail Nicholson, MA, LPC
Gail is passionate about working with individuals who want to explore and connect with a more authentic sense of self as a basis for defining their lives, work lives and roles in the larger community. She offers a blend of personal and career counseling, as she has found that attending to personal issues or mental health concerns can reduce barriers to moving forward. Gail works with clients on defining purpose and direction, handling stress and tackling career exploration, job search and small business start-up.