During the first stage, the coaches and attorneys meet privately with their respective partners in order to get a sense of their position, needs, feelings, and interests. They keep asking questions until they feel they have a clear picture of each partner and could easily talk for them.
In the second stage, the coaches or the attorneys represent each member of the couple and dialogue with their counterpart with the couple listening. In engaging in this way, the intensity is totally eliminated since the couple merely observes. This enables them to experience the discussion of their mutual needs and interests voiced at a safe, unemotional distance. This sets the tone for the focus to be on the task at hand without any emotional drama. It also takes into account the fact that this couple is not ready to talk directly and doesn't ask them to participate in a discussion they are not ready to handle. To do so would only create a premature failure.
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By the third stage, the couple is now invited to engage in the process but is still not allowed to talk directly to the other. Instead, all talking occurs through the coaches and or attorneys. For example, the husband may express a need to the wife's coach who would then relay the message on. The wife in turn can respond to the husband's coach who will deliver the statement to him. It continues in this manner until the issue is resolved. The filtering through the coaches keeps the process free of any hostility directed at the other, and provides a buffer zone for the couple.
If the couple seems to have mastered the other stages and demonstrates a reduction in intensity, drama, and power trips, then they are asked to dialogue directly with the other for the first time. However, the coaches or attorneys remain at their sides at all times, and it is understood that they will reenter the process if the couple regresses into their old behavior.
Other professionals, such as the financial planner and accountant are brought into the process when it is appropriate to resolve a particular feeling of inequality in the areas of support and equalization. They maintain the same core attitudes of collaboration congruent with the other professionals. As you can see in this model, responsibility is earned and is not just given out with no regard to who is involved. Also the coaches and the attorneys are constantly monitoring the power ploys of the couple, and are using themselves to equalize all mismatches. This reduces the opportunity for one partner to use their greater ability in the areas of logic, emotionality, or articulation to the disadvantage of the other.
In conclusion, this approach allows the divorce professional to fit the model to the couple rather than make the couple fit the model. The high conflict couple is then respected for who they are and is not asked to be what they are not.
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