Paralyzed by Uncertainty
Lillian is wrapping up the marriage settlement agreement with her husband and she has a lot of concerns. Her concerns could derail the progress they have made over the past few weeks and also in order to convince her to sign the agreement, her spouse may likely threaten to withdraw a very generous offer he made. By all accounts, this is a good agreement for Lillian. But, even though the divorce was initiated by Lillian, as time draws near to the final agreement, she seems paralyzed by uncertainty and fear about the future and is not able to sign the agreement.
We try to reason with people at a time when they are being unreasonable. We tend to try to convince and maybe coerce them into making a different decision.
Is There a Different Way?
With every concern Lillian raised, there was no reasoning with her to accept a certain amount of risk and move forward. She was being stopped not by her intellectual capacity, but instead by her emotional capacity. She could only see False Evidence Appearing Real, i.e. FEAR!
Lillian wanted more and there was no room to talk with her due to a fear that this wasn’t enough. Our clients want what they want and if we focus on that notion of guarantees and certainty or on whatever “ideal” they are clinging to, then we can’t win!
A personal divorce coach can help. Focusing instead on a process for dealing with this can make a difference. In this case, the client has to shift her perspective from the story in her head about the need for guarantees and certainty, to a fact-based perspective in a certain way. There are personal divorce coaching techniques that do not raise a person’s wall of resistance. Lillian had a settlement agreement, but she wanted more. Moving on with this agreement scares her. She needs to refocus on something that isn’t based in emotion – but something which is more practical, where the rubber meets the road in this agreement using a particular process.
The Process Focuses on the Parts of the Agreement
Let’s break down the settlement agreement into each of the parts that doesn’t seem like enough to her. And then explore each part with her and document it so Lillian can ask her attorney for perspective.
Splitting the 401(K): is it a fair split? Lillian, you got more than half. This is retirement money for your distant future. Any concerns about that? Is there more adjustment needed here? How might more here impact other asset division? Is there a way to improve this?
Lillian wants the house, not just to split the equity. Let’s explore the details to get there. Mortgage refinancing? Maintenance costs? Amount of other assets that may be sacrificed to obtain the house? Is this going to work in her life as a practical matter? Can there be other options? She needs to explore and self-discover the sacrifice or impossibility of this option, not simply be told.
Yes, this can take time and requires patience and non-judgment. Perhaps a professional personal divorce coach is more suited for this conversation.
What about the agreement on the debt. Let’s explore what may work better and what impact this may have on asset division. Is there something more important than another thing in this exploration?
Alimony was negotiated. Let’s explore this area for improvement. Her husband offered even an additional amount of payment for a time that is not taxed as alimony to help her in this transition, a generosity component. Might this additional payment be withdrawn in a renegotiation?
In each detail, the personal divorce coach and the client are focused on a smaller more easily digested aspect of the agreement, which can lower the emotion of having to confront the enormity and overwhelm of it all together. In all details of this case we are doing the less emotional, more fact-based exploring and not rushing to deciding, until after the exploration helps make needed decisions more obvious and rational.
Now a client can take this “new look” at this agreement back to the attorney for a legal process perspective, a kind of feasibility exploration. This would be a discussion more about the business of divorce with a more credible client than about the emotional story of the divorce.
I’ve Done the Best I Can!
In the end, Lillian might find that this is the best she can do to address her concerns. Lillian reflected on this and said, “If I can say I have done the best I can in each of these concerns, then I feel better.”
That is one of the jobs for personal divorce coaching as a dispute resolution process in helping the client make the best possible decisions for themselves and their future: to help them feel that they have done the best they can with each of their concerns. This is a better choice than having the focus be on the unattainable guarantees and certainty!
For More Information
For more information about the 6 Biggest Mistakes in Divorce that are often at the source of all other legal and financial mistakes, join us for our free webinars. The next one is scheduled for this Friday, August 4 at 12 noon ET. Or set up a one-on-one call through our online calendar on a day and time convenient for you and we will be happy to answer any questions you have about this content or personal divorce coaching.