ATTRIBUTIONS OF MADNESS AND BADNESS, AND COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE

Although I’m not sure this happens for all divorcing couples, an article in Psychology Today explains that hating your spouse at some point during a divorce is common and normal. Writings out of the Mental Research Institute in California, I believe back in the late 70s/early 80s, described it in terms of “attributions of madness and badness”. When someone does something that causes sufficient distress (these days that can be disagreeing with a social media post), we don’t think very highly of the other person – there must be a problem with them as a human being – a bad person, or “BAD” as a particular person active on social media likes to post; or even more, there is probably something wrong with them.

In this context, I find it actually pretty remarkable how facilitators in collaborative law cases (our mental health professionals, or “MHPs”) are able to keep communication on a positive track. A large part of it I believe is because people who choose collaborative law self-select to try to participate in a successful process, and each has some level of commitment to that.

I think it’s the approaches MHPs use, the orientation and commitment of the attorneys trained to collaborate, and the neutral financial professionals trained to seek fair solutions and results for both clients. It’s probably all of this and more – the entire process and contribution of everyone and the process – sometimes described as a crucible.

In less evocative terms, there is in a sense a significant super-structure in place made up of each person contributing, the written participation agreement in which each person commits to seek to resolve the case outside of court, and the commitment of the attorneys, financial neutral and MHP to do that as well, and not participate if there is litigation. If one person in a divorce or other collaborative law case lags for a moment or a while, there are other participants to help pick them up, and to help keep the process going.

But even so, there can be times the clients or professionals, at least momentarily, can think a bit negatively of each other or someone else on the team. Maybe not as significant as an attribution of madness or badness, but it can happen. I’ve seen a similar process described by my colleagues Carolann Mazza and Ed Sachs in terms of expectations as premeditated resentment – when someone doesn’t meet our expectations there can be resentment, and if these expectations are not discussed and agreed upon in advance you can often expect resulting resentment.

There is hope though – research shows a success rate in the high 80, low 90 percent range for collaborative cases. In one study involving 933 cases between 2006 and 2010 (conducted by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals – “IACP”), results reported that 86% of the cases completed with a settlement agreement, and another 2% resulted in the couple reconciling.  There is a longer version of the study report here. A more recent Florida study of 101 cases between 2013 and 2018 produced similar results –92% of cases resulting in complete settlement (study not yet published on the web). The study results were based on surveys completed by the professional team members, and the results from an IACP survey of clients (smaller study – 98 clients) yielded similar results, reporting that 90% of the cases settled.

Member Of:
Broward County Bar Association
Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals
Collaborative Family Law Institute
Collaborative Family Law Professionals of South Florida
The Florida Bar