Nothing quite matches the level of betrayal one spouse feels when she finds out that her husband has been cheating on her. Recently, we have witnessed the break-up of the Schwartzenneger-Schriver marriage over Arnold’s reported over-a-decade long affair with their housekeeper and the out-of-wedlock child that resulted. Even in cases with less compelling facts, the spouse who discovers the cheating cannot help but feel a range of emotions, including rage, humiliation, lack of trust, wanting to protect the children from the ugly truth, wish to recover the lost financial resources spent on the affair, possibly need to retaliate.
The betrayed spouse is going to need some time and help to sort through the emotions and determine next best steps to take. If the spouse who committed the betrayal revealed the affair, he might be ready to move on, “take his medicine,” and get it over with.
Assuming that both spouses want to protect their privacy and by extension shield their children from the media blitz (in the case of famous people) or gossip (in the case of everyone), they would be well served to work consider Collaborative Practice as the method to settle their case.
Attorneys – Husband and wife are each represented by an attorney. They also sign a participation agreement that permits their attorney to confer with the professionals (listed below) whom they chose to work on their team. Part of the agreement is that the attorneys and husband and wife agree that everyone will use their best efforts to settle the case without going to the court for judicial decision-making. The penalty, if anyone violates this provision, is the attorneys and other members of the interdisciplinary team must withdraw. This assures that all the professionals and husband and wife will use their best efforts to work in the process to reach a lasting, complete resolution for their family.
Divorce Coach – husband and wife could both benefit from having a divorce coach. This is a mental health professional who engages in targeted, short term counseling with each to get through the many (often) competing emotions they are feeling. They can also help them talk together to reconcile their competing interests. Until the emotions are dealt with effectively, there will be no settlement.
Parenting Specialist – the children would benefit greatly from having mom and dad select a neutral mental health professional who will be available to the children to talk with them about how best to configure the parenting schedule and then work with mom and dad to review options and decide on a schedule that will work for their family.
Financial Professional – husband and wife can select a neutral CPA or other trained professional to help them determine the best way to save taxes and divide their property.
Not every couple needs all these professionals. In complicated, big-asset cases, they may all be necessary. In no-children or lower asset cases, fewer professionals may be needed. It’s up to the couple and their attorneys to decide.
The major advantages to the couple are the conflict is less and consequently, the fees will be less. The negotiations and work with the coaches is conducted in private and at the pace that is comfortable for the couple. Use of multi-disciplinary team provides the full range of services. The professionals are available in the future if the couple needs help with issues such as changing parenting time as the children’s or parent’s needs change. In many cases, this is the best method for reaching complete, lasting settlements.