Are Clients Satisfied With the Collaborative Process?

Clients who are going through a divorce typically are angry, scared, sad and in pain. So it seems like an oxymoron to talk about “satisfaction” with their divorce. Yet, very early on, clients facing a divorce will have two critical decisions to make which will be central to their satisfaction with the result: whom they will choose to represent them, and what process they will utilize.

Some clients are unlikely to be satisfied with any process available to them, given what an extremely rough life transition divorce is for most clients, particularly for the ones who don’t want to be getting a divorce at all. So clients very much need information about the likelihood that they will be glad they chose the Collaborative process when they get to other end of their divorce.

Some very interesting research on this question was conducted by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“IACP”) based on approximately 1,000 Collaborative divorce cases. Of the cases where the clients achieved a successful outcome, only 9% were somewhat dissatisfied (5%) or extremely dissatisfied (4%) with the process. And only 8% wouldn’t recommend the Collaborative process to a friend or colleague.

Although it would be helpful to have research that compares satisfaction rates of clients across different process choices such as litigation, mediation and negotiation, the satisfaction rates with the Collaborative process seem quite high and very encouraging. Anecdotal information also supports the conclusion that clients who choose Collaborative are glad they did so.

A client whose case just ended wrote me the following:

I remember the palpable sense of helplessness and fear when I realized that I was heading down the road to divorce. Confused, bitter and full of questions and few answers, I knew very little about what to expect in the months to come. Then, based on a referral from another family lawyer, I was introduced to the process of collaborative divorce. “Collaborative divorce… a contradiction in terms” I thought. Now, looking back, I realize how little I really understood, and how fortunate I was to have been referred to this process.

While every divorcing couple’s situation is different, I firmly believe that partnering in the collaborative divorce process was one of the best decisions my wife and I could have made. The collaborative process helped us keep what was most important at the forefront of our efforts - our co-parenting of three wonderful children. I’ve seen divorces involving children that are characterized by ambiguity, bitterness and conflict. I believe ours was built on guidelines, principles and trust that we worked hard to establish along the way.

No divorce process is perfect, just as no marriage is perfect. I strongly believe, however, that communication, respect and trust are principles that are as important in divorce as they are in marriage - and the collaborative process gave me and my family all three.

Another client who just signed her agreement reflected as follows:

There is no easy way to divorce, but there is one process that keeps intact the best that people have in them. Although I have been through very difficult moments in the past months, the Collaborative process has empowered me and has also had the positive effect of helping my husband and me to communicate. And, as a result, I feel that today, after signing our agreement, we have accomplished our main goal -- for us to respect each other, act fairly, and preserve our friendship, all of which will be critical for us to parent our daughter together.

In summary, if you decide that the principles of the Collaborative process are consistent with the values you want to draw upon in your divorce, you can do so with confidence that the process has helped countless other clients achieve “good” results.

-Mary S. Pence, JD

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