Trust in the divorce process is a rare commodity. As a divorce coach, the most common use of the word “trust” that I hear comes in some form of “I don’t trust him.” or “I will never trust her again.”

In certain cases, building trust between the two parties may not be possible. In instances where there are personal safety issues such as domestic violence or child abuse, creating trust may actually be something to avoid.

However, in most cases building trust is important. When I work with couples, I focus on building two levels of trust. One level is between the two parties, so that they can create a sustainable divorce that will meet the needs of their family long after the final papers are signed. This type of trust is especially critical when kids are involved. The second level of trust is building trust within the individuals. Individuals often need to understand that they can trust themselves to make the right decisions in a divorce.

What do I mean when I talk about trusting yourself in divorce?

Divorce works best when couples create a solution that meets the unique needs of their family. Too often, couples abdicate control of the divorce process to the courts. The process is set up to be adversarial. The agendas are set by lawyers and the solutions are controlled by judges.  

There is no “one-size-fits-all” for divorce. The unique needs of families can get lost in the legal system. I believe that Collaborative Divorce and Mediation provide a better model for divorce. In these models, the parties retain control and much of the process is performed outside of the court system. Both parties work with teams of professional to develop a divorce that meets the needs for the parties and their families—not the legal system.

However, developing this type of solution can be difficult, the process can be fluid and it takes work. However, the end result is a divorce that allows the parties to maintain control and develop a solution that works for them and their kids. For this process to work, the parties need to trust their ability to make good decisions for themselves and their family. If you want to be told what to do, these processes will not work for you.

 Here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine if you trust yourself:

  • Do I have ideas about what would be emotionally and physically healthy for me and my kids?
  • Can I make these thoughts known to others?
  • What kind of support do I need during the process to participate and communicate these thoughts?

This final question can be helpful in understanding if you want more support (such as the Collaborative team approach) or if you feel you could participate without that level of support in mediation.

What do I mean when I talk about rebuilding trust in the co-parent relationship 

By the time a divorce is initiated, trust between a married couple is often low. I often use the metaphor of a building when I talk to couples about trust. A building can fall apart over time or it can be destroyed in an instant. However, buildings can be rebuilt, but it has to be done brick-by-brick. When I work with couples as their Divorce Coach or Child Specialist, I use this language during the process. Whenever I see a goodwill gesture, I label it as a “brick” in the foundation of rebuilding trust. 

You won’t be spouses after the divorce, but you will co-parent your kids for a lifetime. Having a basic foundation of trust will allow you to remember that each of you wants the best for your kids and that is a great place to start any discussion. It frees you up from blaming one another or feeling to defensive and you can use that energy instead to determine how to make a good decision for your child.

It takes time and effort to rebuild trust with a co-parent and to trust your ability to make good decisions. Some people prefer to avoid this hard work and let others make decisions for them. My experience is that people who are willing to do this hard work up front benefit enormously in the long run.