Written By: Cynthia M. Weston
A Grandparent Lawyer’s Perspective
So much of the collaborative process conversation centers around couples still parenting children in their home. The collaborative process can be beneficial for couples who are empty nesters as well.
There are the obvious reasons for any couple to choose the collaborative process, not the least of which is: it keeps the couple’s business private (no open court hearings); it promotes good communication and respect for one another during a difficult time; both spouses feel their needs are heard and have a team of professionals to solve the puzzle of their next chapter, and the like. The added benefit of the collaborative process for empty nesters is the invaluable contribution a financial neutral can make in assisting them, not only with budgets immediately after separation, but assist them in reviewing retirement plans and accounting for those needs.
The benefits I focus on today are not those that are financial, or even the general great attributes of the process. The benefits of the process for the empty nester are emotional and can be far-reaching. Choosing to use the collaborative process can benefit your adult children and their families. I cannot count the number of stories I have heard from litigation clients about the awkward graduation attendance with each parent in separate locations, and not even speaking. I have heard many clients who litigated their divorces have such strained relationships with spouses that the adult children have to see them separately for each occasion, alternate occasions between the estranged parents, or even worse, choose a “side” and have less of a relationship with one of the parents. Adult children can go through logistical nightmares for graduations, professional recognitions, weddings, births, birthdays, and holidays for the divorced couple to participate after litigated divorces, and often even mediated divorces. These situations are, rightfully, not in the forefront of reasons to choose collaborative, however, the lasting improvement- sometimes generationally- are profound and worthy of consideration. In many situations, couples who use the collaborative process can be in the same room together, can stand near one another to celebrate a child’s achievements, and can attend the same festivities at the same time.
The collaborative process gives the divorcing couple the space to be heard, and the tools by which they can hear their spouse’s perspective. This is not easy, and it frankly takes the entire team to guide a couple in a manner that allows for past bitterness, resentment and/or fear to be left in the past. The process helps to allow the couple to regain the respect they had for one another at the start of their relationship. This respect helps the couple become better communicators through the process. When the process is finished, most collaborative couples feel that their communication stays respectful and productive. That ability to communicate and the ability to show respect can be the foundation upon which the couple can strengthen their “co-parenting” and/or become “co-grandparents”, or just keep them as be a contributing family member in the family melting pot. Adult children breathe a sigh of relief in the cooperation of scheduling holiday time (while it may not be together, there is an air of understanding that lingers). The divorced couple can have the opportunity to participate in events and with grandchildren without the underlying current of angst that can stress all of the guests. And finally, we can affect grandchildren- the legacy. We can show them what it truly means to be a family: togetherness, good communication; kind conversations concerning the other grandparent, and the opportunity to share joyous events. The collaborative process can truly help a divorcing empty nest couple to be role models for their adult children and grandchildren on how to proceed through a stormy time and yet rise above the past and focus on those they mutually love and hope to keep close.