May 2, 2013

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors in Collaborative DivorceSeveral years back, I was working on a case with another collaborative attorney and our clients were arguing about a parenting issue.  My client was trying to tell her soon-to-be former spouse how he should spend his time with their daughter.  Rather than being reactive and pushing back on my client, the other attorney pulled out a piece of paper and drew a rectangle and started talking about them sharing a back yard as a couple and that when they were together, they had a common vision or idea (not always void of conflict, mind you) about how they raised their daughter and spent their resources.  They let certain people enter their common back yard, decided how they would care for the back yard and how they wanted it to look.

Then The other attorney took her pen and drew a line down the middle of the back yard and talked about how the back yard is now owned half by my client and half by her client.  And what was once a shared space is no longer shared, although they share a common fence.  They can look over the common fence and talk about things that are important to them about their common values and goals, but they each no longer had the same authority to decide what happened in the other’s yard or who the other let into that space.  She very gently and tactfully said that what we were talking about with regard to the daughter and how time was spent in the other person’s back yard, is no longer my client’s back yard to tend to.  And then she mentioned something that her client no longer had the right to tend to in my client’s back yard.  The couple paused and you could see the light bulb go on in their heads.  It was a great metaphor for what happens during a divorce.

In a Collaborative Divorce, the team of professionals help the couple define their own back yards and identify what boundaries, ordinances, and communications are appropriate and necessary for their shared vision of parenting and a healthy divorce.   This can be a very difficult transition for many people.  And working with a divorce coach or neutral child specialist helps couples redefine their boundaries and expectations around parenting, communication and their newly defined relationship; all of which are part of creating a parenting plan/relationship plan.  Each couple has to learn what they continue to have a say over and what they no longer have a say over with their soon-to-be former spouse.

During the next two meetings with this couple, they each commented on several occasions when they recognized they were entering the other’s back yard, and then stepped back and simply stated their concern or idea, but left it at that rather than forcing an issue.  It was a non-charged term they could use going forward as co-parents.  They learned where their common fence stood.  After all, good fences make good neighbors, right?

Louise LivesayABOUT THE AUTHOR
Louise Livesay
Founder, Livesay Law Office

Louise Livesay, JD is known for her ability to problem-solve on behalf of her clients in a way that maximizes the best outcome for the entire family. Understanding that most families facing divorce or uncoupling want to have effective co-parenting relationships and be treated with respect and feel heard during the process, she has created a practice focused on fostering healthy families as they transition to a new configuration through non-adversarial methods, such as the Collaborative Process and Mediation. Learn more at www.CollaborativeLawMn.com

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One Response to Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

  1. Emily Murphy says:

    Staying out of your ex-spouse’s business can be such a difficult concept to understand. This is a fantastic way to illustrate it.

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