May 15, 2015

Sufficient Conditions

476845987-hands-holding-bunch-of-red-balloons-against-gettyimagesGetting unmarried collaboratively is about having difficult conversations with one’s soon to be un-spouse in order to reach an agreement in which there is mutual gain – think of it as finding a way to divide a dozen oranges so that both of you end up with a dozen oranges (ask your collaborative team about that one). Sure, some people will call these conversations “negotiations” or even “interest-based negotiations” or perhaps even “interest-based bargaining” but when all is said and done what you are doing is having an open and frank discussion with your partner supported by a team of professionals with a focus on a single end point: creating a best-possible future for your family.

Now, having successful conversations about difficult matters requires a starting point. Within the collaborative process, this starting point is often an agreement to openly and fully disclose of all relevant information; basically for these conversations to work, you and your partner have be willing to help each other to succeed and before that can happen there needs to be some degree of trust and one way for trust to begin to (re)develop is if everyone sees all the cards.

As you and your team wind your way to that final agreement, you will notice that there is a pattern to these conversations. Your conversations will cycle through a series of stages. Generally an issue will be broached from there, you and your team will spend some time defining and listing the interests, needs, and goals involved. Then information will be gathered, options will be generated and then real conversation begins as you and your partner evaluate each option against the criteria (those interests, needs & goals) you have agreed define the optimal outcome. There will be many conversations and many trips around the cycle before that final agreement is developed – but it takes time to craft a new future.

Even with a defined and guided process these conversations will require an investment of time and energy; they are not easy conversations to have in the best of circumstances. But they can lead to solutions that can divide 12 oranges among 2 people by giving each one 12 oranges and aren’t those the types of solutions you want for your family’s future?

Bruce Cameron
Attorney, Cameron Law, PLLC

Bruce Cameron, JD, MS is a second career attorney, practicing Quaker, and advocate for small town law practices. His solo practice focuses exclusively on collaborative law and mediation with just a soupçon of estate planning for excitement. Bruce believes that alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, like collaborative law and mediation, are powerful positive means to reduce the destructive conflict typical of litigation. He has found that a little peacemaking tends to produce better outcomes for his clients. Learn more at

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