As a Collaborative case progresses, one or both of the parties often want to "save time" or "save money" by negotiating directly with their spouse, outside of the joint Collaborative meetings. That's usually a bad idea from my experience. Why?
Here are some common problems that arise when the parties go off on their own and directly negotiate some aspects of their case.
1. One spouse often dominates. That's usually the one who came up with the idea of meeting, talking and getting some quick decisions. That spouse often tries to pressure the other spouse into agreeing on some issues, and that conflicts with the structure and safety that Collaborative Law offers.
2. One spouse may have more information. Usually, that's the spouse pushing to get quick decisions. The other spouse may be at a disadvantage from lack of preparation and lack of information.
3. Having the private meetings skips steps in the Collaborative process and the parties lose the advantages of organized information gathering, analysis and brainstorming. For the party with the agenda, that's not so bad.
4. There's no referee. The mental health professional (MHP) is not around to make sure each party treats the other party appropriately. Things can easily get out of hand, with arguments ensuing.
5. The parties can easily get caught up in small details and argue over them, rather than considering the bigger issues. Small issues can lead to big arguments and hardening of positions for future negotiations.
6. One spouse may feel pressured. Each spouse already knows how to put pressure on their other spouse. That can lead to hurt feelings, anger or fear, none of which helps future negotiations.
7. The discussions can easily become heated. That can end up moving the parties away from possible agreements. It's easy to slip back into old patterns of argument when the MHP isn't around to keep the peace.
There's a fine line between necessary communication on minor issues and private negotiations between the parties. Make sure you don't cross over the line.