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  • Margaret Zuleger

A Marriage Story

Have you seen A Marriage Story? I did. When you’re a divorce lawyer, it’s the kind of movie people ask you about. I liked it. Some of my collaborative colleagues talked about it, and wondered what would have happened if the couple in A Marriage Story had committed to the Collaborative Divorce process for their divorce?

I actually kind of liked how it turned out, all things considered. They got divorced, but in the end they still could care for each other. For their son to see his parents be able to do that is a blessing. Too many kids have to live with the bitterness of their parents during and after a divorce.

How this couple got there was a big waste of money and generated more negative feelings than necessary. Couldn’t they see that choosing obnoxious litigation attorneys did not benefit them?

This same divorcing couple in a collaborative divorce would not have been faced with threats and cheap put downs.

But really isn’t it up to the couple themselves to not be represented like this? Clients have to remember that they are the clients. When the wife’s attorney was being too aggressive by threatening things that they never discussed threatening, the wife should have spoken up right there in the meeting! She could have said, “wait, that’s not what I want to happen,” or simply explained that her attorney did not speak for her on that point.

As Collaborative divorce attorneys, we try to not speak for our clients when our clients are capable of speaking for themselves. If the client needs help speaking, or getting started on a challenging topic, then the attorney can of course “speak” for the client; but a good collaborative attorney will then shut up and let the client express whatever their goal or concern is.

If expressing a goal or concern is used as an opportunity to attack their soon-to-be-ex, then in a collaborative divorce with a coach, the coach should be able to jump into the conversation and either diffuse it, or reframe it, in a way that doesn’t just start an escalating tit for tat argument.

They put themselves through the wringer by choosing the attorneys they did. Divorce is bad enough. No sense choosing a process that can so easily get out of control – usually to the family’s detriment.

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