What is a Dispute Prevention Document (DPD) and why would I need one?

The dispute prevention process usually entails preparing a Dispute Prevention Document (DPD) which clearly defines your intentions, wishes, and the process to be followed in the event of a dispute. The DPD is in plain language and non-binding (unless you choose to make it binding on your own or as part of a different process).

As mediators, arbitrators and coaches, we are more often than not, brought it to help resolve disputes after a problem comes up. Through this work we have found that many disputes are caused by misunderstandings, lack of communication, and unmet expectations.

Over the years we have worked with many people to help them be proactive about avoiding disputes. I know! What a novel idea! Knowing what causes disputes as well as what is involved in resolving them, helps us guide you through a process to be prepared for them.

When people talk about problem solving you hear “focus on the problem, not the person”. When you are in the middle of a dispute, it’s hard to stay focused on the problem when you may believe the person is the problem or at least that they caused the problem. We know this.

We also know that problem solving is easier to do before it’s needed. When you are getting along, when you have time to clearly identify your wants and needs, when communication is simple and respectful, and when you can focus on the problem and not the person. The Dispute Prevention Document is designed to do just that. To clearly document what your intentions, decisions and agreements are now, in the chance of a dispute in the future. Your DPD will act as a guide. You don’t have to rely on memories; which can change over time, or your understanding of what was agreed to verbally, or guess what a person wanted.

Think about all of the amazing conversations where you think you have been very clear about your wishes, only to find they weren’t followed.

Think about all of the difficult conversations you don’t want to have because well, they are difficult. These are the topics that mean something to you and should at least be documented to provide context for decisions you make.

Think about how happy, understanding and in love you are at the beginning of a relationship – able to take on the world and resolve anything that comes up. You can’t imagine ever separating or your partner changing their mind about a decision you made, a verbal agreement, or worse, denying it was ever agreed to in the first place.

The DPD is like insurance – but simpler to understand and get support from if something goes wrong!

Use your Dispute Prevention Document to clearly identify decisions and agreements, proactively define a process to resolve disputes that may occur in the future, or to clearly state your intentions and wishes.

Let’s say…

You have selected a Power of Attorney (POA) that is unexpected or may cause conflict in the family. When the POA comes into affect, you may not be able to clearly articulate why you made that decision or your Attorney may not know what you want to have happen with a health decision for example. Documenting the ‘why’ now, should help avoid or at least reduce disputes that may occur in your family.

You agree to transition the day to day operations of your family business to your children and their spouses. Who has final decision making? When is the transition expected to be complete? How do you stay informed without being seen as interfering? What is your expectation if a child separates from their spouse? Fist, understanding the importance of having these discussions and second documenting the discussions and agreements now, should help avoid or at least reduce disputes that may occur in your family or business.

You have agreed to separate but you both need time before making final or long lasting decisions. You can define an interim plan for parenting, how to pay the bills while you are sorting things out, set timelines, and even agree on the process such as mediation, collaborative or lawyers to help negotiate your separation. Documenting your discussions and agreements now will reduce problems that come misunderstanding or unmet expectations about the path forward.

You are co-parenting and historically you’ve had issues around extracurricular activities for the kids. Knowing that this is a difficult topic of conversation you put together a Dispute Prevention Document to identify how you make these decisions, how to pay for activities, or even whether you agree or have the resources for your children to pursue competitive, or more time consuming and expensive activities. Documenting your discussions and agreements now will provide a process to be followed, including how to resolve a dispute if one occurs.