The Collaborative Divorce Team is a group of professionals, each skilled in their own area of expertise, working for the benefit of the clients and the clients’ family.
The Collaborative Team consists of:
- A Collaborative Lawyer for each spouse
- A Neutral Financial Professional
- Collaborative Communication Coach(es)
- Child Specialist
The Divorcing Spouses are also an integral part of the team. The Collaborative approach benefits them in that spouses trade helplessness and lack of control for knowledge and empowerment. The team helps reduce the stress of the unknown.
The Collaborative approach proceeds on the basis of mutual cooperation and problem solving. Some typical characteristics of the Collaborative approach are:
- The team seeks to understand what is important for each client and the family
- The team offers targeted legal, mental health and financial support
- The team brainstorms, suspends judgment, and refrains from negativity
- The focus is on problem solving and exploring options, allowing for creativity
- Ultimatums, roadblocks, barriers and negative criticism are removed
- The common goal is to support the parties in reaching settlement
The Role of Collaborative Attorneys
Individuals facing divorce are each represented by their own attorney.
Attorneys in the Collaborative Process are specially trained to advocate collaboratively, which includes representing the individual client, while maintaining the goals of the Collaborative Process. Collaborative Lawyers do not work as “hired guns.” They expect and encourage the highest good-faith problem-solving behavior from their clients and themselves. Collaborative attorneys trust one another. Respect and integrity are hallmarks of the Collaborative Divorce process. Collaborative family law attorneys strive for cooperation and integrity, encouraging each client to aspire to those same standards.
Solutions to the issues presented are reached in meetings with the clients and their professional team. Attorneys help clients brainstorm all possible options on each issue, evaluate and prioritize those options, and reach agreements that meet their needs and interests.
Clients have the support to minimize conflict and work with their Collaborative team to work towards creative solutions. This saves time, money and reduces stress. If they have children, they have the support to improve the communication skills needed as they raise their children from separate households.
Settlements achieved through the process are legal and binding, and the collaboratively trained Attorneys prepare the requisite documents and settlement agreements to finalize the divorce process without going to court.
Collaborative Lawyers represent the best interests of the client while working within the collaborative process.
- Educates and counsels the client.
- Helps the client identify and assess the client’s needs as well as those of the other spouse.
- Helps the client explore realistic alternatives to meet the client’s needs.
- Assists the parties in managing conflict.
- Works collaboratively with the other lawyer and the team.
- Facilitates the settlement discussion and incorporates client agreements into the final settlement documents.
- Prepares all the documents that need to be filed with the Court.
The Role of
Divorcing couples are often unaware of the financial implications of various settlement options. The Neutral Financial Professional works for both spouses and does not “take sides”. He or she is a professional who helps you gather, organize, list, understand and analyze financial data relevant to your divorce. His/her role is to inform and educate you about the decisions you are considering and help you develop creative solutions to complex financial problems. The goal is to help you reach an educated, informed decision that you can live with.
The Neutral Financial Professional has specific training in Collaborative Divorce and family law matters. The Financial Neutral is a certified financial planner, certified divorce financial analyst, certified divorce planner, and/or certified public accountant. As a neutral, the financial professional has greater credibility in providing information and fostering a dialogue than an advocate. This makes it easier to reach mutually satisfying agreements.
The Neutral Financial Professional:
- Gathers all relevant financial documents
- Helps clients identify, clarify and prioritize financial needs, goals and concerns
- Educates one or both clients regarding the family’s financial position so that you are comfortable in making your own financial decisions
- Assists with developing a client’s budget
- Prepares detailed financial reports for all members of the Collaborative team which also serve as the clients’ declarations of disclosure
- Raises awareness of need for other financial specialists
- Facilitates discussion of settlement options and short and long term consequences
- Assesses tax consequences for different scenarios
- Prepares projections based on the different settlement options
- Brings the voice of financial reality to the discussions
- Reviews marital settlement agreement for accuracy as it relates to team financial discussions
The Role of Collaborative Communication Coaches
A Collaborative Communication Coach is a licensed mental health professional who has experience in issues related to separation, divorce, and remarriage. The Coach has training and expertise in family dynamics, communication skills, mediation, and the Collaborative law process. The Collaborative Communication Coach helps prepare each client to participate effectively within the collaborative process.
The Collaborative Communication Coach does not act as a therapist. However, the coach uses professional training and experience to assist you in managing emotional or psychological issues that might otherwise get in the way of a productive discussion.
Research has shown that divorce is one of the most stressful life events a person can face. It is a major life transition and can be a very disorienting experience. For most people, getting divorced involves loss on many levels. These can include loss of control, loss of a dream, loss of trust, loss of stability, loss of a best friend, loss of financial security, loss of connection to shared friends and community, and loss of identity as a married person, among others.
Given this level of life disruption, powerful feelings of anger and grief about the end of the marriage are common. These thoughts and feelings are normal as divorcing couples go through this transition. Nonetheless, they can and often do hinder the divorce process. For example, one spouse’s anger at the other spouse may prompt acting out in an effort to retaliate. Fear of the unknown may cause them to stall the process. Grief about what has been lost may hamper their ability to visualize and move toward a different future. Many people feel ruled by their emotions at this time that can keep them from making sound decisions.
Collaborative Divorce Coaches help clients:
- Identify and prioritize their goals and concerns
- Identify strong emotions that might interfere with their ability to participate in the collaborative process
- Develop strategies to present each client’s ideas and concerns and to advocate for themselves, so they will be understood
- Understand their spouse’s concerns so they feel heard
- Identify ineffective communication patterns and create better communication
- In families with children, the coach helps develop parenting plans and co-parenting strategies to support the transition to two households
- The Coach works with the team to address roadblocks to resolution
The Role of Child Specialists
Sometimes a Child Specialist is part of the Collaborative Divorce team. A Child Specialist is a licensed mental health professional with specialized training in child development, family systems, Collaborative Divorce, interdisciplinary teams, and understanding based negotiations. The Child Specialist meets with the children and provides information to both parents that may be of assistance in developing their parenting arrangements. The Child Specialist functions as a neutral on the team to bring the voice of the children into the process.
A Collaborative Child Specialist has three primary responsibilities:
- To provide the children with an opportunity to voice their concerns
- To provide parents with information and guidance to help their children throughout the process
- To provide information to the Collaborative Divorce team that will help develop an effective co-parenting plan that prioritizes the needs of the children
The Child Specialist helps you:
- Understand what your children are going through
- Share your thoughts and feelings about your children
- Gain a greater understanding about how divorce effects children
The Child Specialist helps your children:
- Express their feelings, thoughts and concerns about what’s happening
- Feel safe and supported in examining their own reactions to their parents’ divorce
- Speak openly about their relationships with both parents without feeling conflicting loyalties