As the world watches recent events unfold after the United Kingdom Brexit vote last week to leave the European Union, many commentators have compared this process to a high-conflict and complicated divorce. Below are four insights that I have explored with my clients after they have made the decision to “leave” and the work begins in exploring the next steps in navigating their own high-conflict divorce.
- You need an interim plan. – In the first few days and weeks after being served divorce papers or, in the Brexit example a “Leave” vote, emotions will run very high. There are a multitude of issues to consider and information that you must communicate. However it is crucial to remain calm because if anger and fear are the overriding emotions you bring to this stage of the process, the foundation you create in this interim period can adversely impact your negotiation position as your divorce continues. An interim communication plan is also a necessary tool in managing the perception of institutions who may be impacted by your decision to divorce, such as your children’s schools, banks that hold your loans, and business partners who may be impacted by your decision to divorce.
- The “divorce” could get very expensive. – One of the interesting narratives in the aftermath of the Brexit vote was the difference in voting between the younger and the senior generations. Divorce is a legal process that has the potential to destroy inter-generational wealth. It is important to realize that when you make a life-altering decision life will change for all of the parties involved. No one emerges unscathed. If the parties in control of the resources are not working in concert to make sure that they can communicate and resolve the little things, then the attorneys and experts will be involved in everything and you must be prepared to pay for it all.
- Your “experts” can abandon you. – Many people were shocked by the resignation of David Cameron and the fact that current estimates are that extraction from the EU could take 2 or more years. Sometimes in high-conflict and protracted legal processes such as divorces and bankruptcy cases, fatigue can set in. Your judge may retire, your special experts may remove themselves from your case due to illness, other priorities, or your attorney may fire you. When professionals feel they can no longer be effective in their role, that their advice and counsel is being ignored, or perhaps they see no end to the acrimony, walking away is an option. It is important to remember that a vote of “no confidence” works both ways. If successfully concluding your “divorce” is a priority then all the parties will need to show up to the table prepared to do just that.
- A new reality can allow for reconciliation. – Many citizens have expressed remorse at their vote and that if given the option again they would vote differently especially with the new information. Feeling frustrated and that you have no other option may be the reason that you may have pulled the trigger and initiated your divorce, but regret and remorse can be the fuel that allows you to explore if your marriage can be saved. I have seen couples who have initiated a divorce take a break to attend couples therapy to see if things really have to end or decide just before a judgment is granted decide to end the divorce proceedings and remain married. Anything can happen, and I tell my clients that what is most important is their decision to stay or leave their marriage be fully informed and grounded in reality and not based upon nostalgia, fantasy, and fear.
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