Knowledge Base

A Divorce Strategist Can Move You
to Win Win 


July 1, 2017
Written by Lynne C. Halem

Avoid the Divorce “WIN-LOSE” Conundrum, Move to “WIN-WIN” with a Divorce Strategist

What Is a Divorce Strategist?

The strategist’s objective is to help the client to think creatively in exploring different options and in structuring settlement terms.  Strategist and client work together to generate proposals and/or responses to proposals in negotiating a settlement.  The strategist strives to turn a process that appears to be (or has become) unproductive into one that is manageable, efficient, and more importantly—results in an agreement that is financially and emotionally advantageous for the family unit.    

Who Uses a Divorce Strategist?

If your divorce stalls, get yourself a strategist. Don’t waste time; schedule an appointment.

Dr. Lynne Halem, the Director of the Centre for Mediation and Dispute Resolution, has been a strategic consultant for individuals who are reluctant to surrender their case and its direction to their attorneys.  Thirty-five years of divorce mediation experience has given Dr. Halem in-depth knowledge of Massachusetts divorce law and related financial decisions, as well as an understanding of the psychological impact of divorce on children and adults.  As a strategic consultant Dr. Halem helps clients to view the big picture and design creative settlements that are geared towards a win-win solution, rather than a “May-the-spouse-with-the most aggressive divorce attorney win” solution. 

Case Studies

Case #1:  7-year marriage, 1 child, Alice wishes to mediate, Joanne wants a lawyer 

Alice and Joanne were getting divorced.  Initially, Alice wanted to use a mediator and Joanne wanted an attorney, skeptical that mediation would not protect “her” assets.  Joanne hired the most aggressive attorney she could find. 

Alice had no choice, she thought, but to find an equally aggressive attorney.  She hired a lawyer known for her no-nonsense, “tough” approach.  After the initial meeting and payment of a hefty retainer, Alice’s attorney’s  “tough stance” seemed to vanish. Her attorney became reactive, waiting for Joanne’s lawyer’s approach.  Alice became frustrated with her attorney’s lack of initiative.

Sensing her frustration, Alice’s friend recommended that she speak with Dr. Halem at the Centre for Mediation, who had helped a colleague of hers get through a contentious divorce.  Alice called CMDR, and immediately liked what she heard in the consultation.   After two sessions with Dr. Halem, she felt better informed about financial trade-offs, legal requirements, even the family’s emotional expectations.  With the strategist’s input, Alice began to prioritize her options and to weigh the impact of different “deals.”

Together Alice and Dr. Halem created a proposal that offered each partner advantages.  With the guidance of a divorce strategist Alice felt empowered: Not only could she respond knowledgeably to Joanne’s attorney’s one-sided proposals, she could also initiate proposals (albeit through her attorney), that would be beneficial to both spouses, and importantly, beneficial for their child.   Thus the negotiations became a “workable” solution rather than the “winner-take-all” approach they had initially tried. 

Case #2:  15–year marriage, two children, The Whites

After 15 years of marriage and two children, ages 10 and 12, Bill and Stacey White agreed to divorce.  Following the advice of recently divorce friends, they each hired an attorney.  Each lawyer, independently, gave their client  “pre-divorce” advice. Although Bill and Stacey had initially agreed that they would live separately and share custody of the children, each one was advised by their attorney to stay in the house.  Having planned to live separately, and knowing that living in two homes would be more expensive than living together, Stacey had asked for more hours at work.  But, following the advice of counsel, she turned down the additional responsibility, and continued working part time. Bill was advised to cut back his work schedule and to spend more time with the boys. And the list went on. Decisions that had seemed logical to Stacey and Bill, even as a couple planning a divorce now unraveled as each attorney weighed in.

Tension mounted as Stacey and Bill became entrenched in taking a positional stance to establish their individual “winning” position.  Yet there was no winner.  In fact, nothing much seemed to be happening.  One year after they had hired lawyers, they were still living in the same house, still arguing and getting more upset as time passed, and the children were more confused than ever.  Why were they at a standstill?  Why were they not making progress?  Bill spoke to his therapist, who suggested mediation.  But Stacey refused, arguing that she needed legal protection.  

Negotiations stalled again, and three more months slipped by.  Exasperated Bill spoke to his therapist again.  This time he was referred to Dr. Halem, an experienced mediator who also offered divorce strategy services.    Determined to move forward, yet unsure whether Stacey would even be open to ideas from an “additional” 3rd party, Bill focused his work with Dr. Halem solely on issues related to the children.  Dr. Halem helped Bill clarify issues around custodianship and what the options were.   With the strategist’s input, Bill structured a variety of parenting plans that incorporated each parent’s availability to be with the children. Armed with these proposals he approached Stacey.

Although hesitant at first to yield any ground, Stacey was also anxious to shield the children from more angst.  She listened to Bill’s proposed plans.  She was encouraged by his assurance that the plan was only exploratory; that there was “no deal until there is a whole deal.” At the beginning progress was slow; halting efforts to collaborate were painful. But it felt like the right approach to Stacey; a process that preserved some civility with the person she had spent over 15 years with, the father of her 3 children.    With the guidance of Dr. Halem, Bill was able to think creatively in order to prioritize areas where he and Stacey could agree, one issue at a time. They moved forward in the way that felt workable, and respectful.  By taking some control of the process, he tackled a piece of the whole, and moved forward.  Finally, Bill emerged more knowledgeable, and even cautiously optimistic that he had gained some co-parenting skills that he would rely on after the divorce process was over. 

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