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One of my biggest pet-peeves is when another lawyer tells me that Collaborative Divorce won’t work. Don’t tell that to Cat J. Zavis.  Cat presented a seminar that I attended this past week on how Non-Violent Communication can help resolve Family Law Cases, including Collaborative Divorces.

The seminar was organized by Mark Springfield, a fellow Collaborative Divorce Lawyer and colleague of mine at Separating Together in Raleigh.

I can certainly understand how most lawyers that haven’t been trained in collaborative law would be skeptical that a process that doesn’t have a judicial decision hanging over the heads of the parties will work…  But after having been through the training, taking on my own collaborative cases, and watching other lawyers that are trained in collaborative law, I have a renewed optimism that this is the best way for people to resolve their divorce case.

During the training this past week, we concentrated in how to use Nonviolent Communication (also called NVC) to resolve disputes.  At the heart of NVC is the idea that all attorneys involved must be actively listening to their clients and the other spouse to develop an understanding of everyone’s needs and give them an opportunity to be heard.  Once both parties have had a chance to express themselves openly, and their needs clarified, then it is possible to brainstorm different solutions that would facilitate a collaborative agreement.

There is a three step process that is used to communicate in nonviolent ways.  It starts from within – letting yourself understand what you are thinking and feeling at that moment.  If you can clarify your immediate feelings and needs, then you can respond constructively to what others are saying.  Next, you must silently and actively listen to the speaking party to get a feeling for what their feelings and needs might be.  Finally, you will reach a choice point – either continue to listen to yourself, (Step 1), begin to show empathy for the other person, or express yourself in a non-threatening way.

Does this sound confusing?  It is – which is why it is important that lawyers that want to practice collaboratively go through constant training.  Our law school education does not prepare us with the types of skills that are necessary to succeed in a collaborative environment.  We discussed these principles for 3 days, and I still am continuing to learn and grow and practice what I’ve learned.

But the upside is that I will be able to better assist people to resolve conflicts in their family law cases – which means that more and more collaborative divorces will be a success, without involving the court system.

And by the way, did I mention that Tiger Woods chose Collaborative Divorce?  If he can do it, with the facts of their case, then you can do it too.