One of my best friends, Jim, is facing what he sees a tough road ahead. It’s not that he and his wife are separating; it’s the unwelcome help he’s receiving from his gym mates. One soccer buddy boasts that Jim must lead the troops and show the rest of the guys what we’re made of. Another was convinced that he got the short end of the stick when he divorced having to pay child support for his two toddlers who lived with their mother. The team coach offers his support by rubbing his hands together proclaiming the battle’s just begun! These words encouraging a contest of wills are unsettling to Jim because they’re talking about his family. He just wants some privacy to figure out what he’s entitled to and pay what the law says he needs to pay. He also sees a future with the kids at all stages of their lives. We were lamenting that there was no course in school where you learned how to deal with conflict and the emotional pain which often accompanies a significant or unexpected change in our lives. Those lessons would aid us in helping our children cope with upheaval or difficult situations. The Right Settlement Means Choosing the Right Process There is a new way to work out the differences when a couple decides to part ways. Saying to your spouse how hurt you are feeling – in a private and safe environment. It is a way to express how important the kids are to you. It is a way to say that you need money to be able to have your own place. In the spectrum of options, you can choose from those where the clients have a prominent and active role. Formally, these options are called interest-based processes and include meditation and the collaborative process. Or, you can rely on a spokesperson such as lawyer to take the reins in a public forum while you remain in the background. This is an example of a position-based path where you plant your feet and fight for what you want. Examples of these adversarial processes are court and arbitration. Characteristics of an interest-based approach: If you believe that you and your spouse could focus your attention on resolving issues, be respectful of each other’s rights and obligations, and share an openness to long term settlement, then interest-based processes may be your path. being fully informed about legal rights and obligations by your independent lawyer provides a solid foundation and direction for the negotiations understanding what you are entitled to receive from your spouse or partner as well as what your partner is entitled to receive from you open discussions about the true financial circumstances is necessary to plan for the immediate and long term future being personally involved empowers the clients to resolve problems as they arise while working together to consider a comprehensive resolution Characteristics of a position-based approach: There are times when a position-based approach is effective. For example, a pattern of abusive behaviour or refusal by a spouse to respond to requests for financial disclosure that require that you initiate or respond to a court action or lawsuit. the court mandated process is paper-laden and involves time-sensitive deadlines it is expensive in terms of time, emotion and money due to aggressive tactics which may be used by one side, court backlogs and insufficient public resources When facing an entrenched ‘warrior’, or for those who may be in abusive or difficult relationships, position-based processes that require a stranger to adjudicate may be the appropriate approach The Last Word The Concerned Kids www.theconcernedkids.com/ is an interactive puppetry community based charity educating children in the school setting about bullying, peer pressure and other current social topics. The theme: keeping our children safe and empowering them to positively change their environment. This is one of many school programs which teach children interest based negotiation techniques to resolve at an early stage the pressures they face on a daily basis.