The Collaborative 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. It is not unlike a medical team in which different specialists focus on the care and health needs of the patient.
The Collaborative team consists of:
Whereas traditional divorce often involves exchanging demands and accusations, 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 divorcing spouses are 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.
Collaborative lawyers view their professional obligations differently from traditional adversarial lawyers. Collaborative lawyers view the other lawyer not as an adversary but as a partner in a problem-solving process. Instead of dedicating oneself to grabbing the largest possible piece of the pie for their own client, no matter the human or financial cost, Collaborative lawyers are committed to helping their clients achieve the highest intentions for themselves in their post-divorce renegotiated families.
Collaborative lawyers do not act as hired guns. Nor do they take advantage of mistakes made by the other side. They do not threaten, insult, or focus on the negative either in their own client or on his or her spouse. They encourage the highest good-faith problem solving approach from their own clients and themselves.
Lawyers are natural problem solvers; however, in conventional litigation, they tend to pull in opposite directions. Collaborative lawyers can only succeed if they find not only solutions to their own clients’ problems but constructive ways of addressing the other party’s concerns that are satisfactory to their client.
A Collaborative Attorney:
- assists clients in gathering and analyzing information;
- helps clients examine needs and interests to develop settlement options and packages;
- helps clients evaluate consequences and limitations of possible solutions;
- helps clients evaluate settlement options in the context of established legal precedents;
- prepares the required legal documentation of the agreement and files divorce papers to obtain the Judgment of Divorce.
Frequently one party in the divorce is less informed when it comes to the family finances. That party may react in a number of ways€”terror, curiosity, feeling overwhelmed. When that is the case, bringing a financial neutral into the process can be beneficial in presenting the information in an understandable, non-biased format. For the first time in their financial lives the parties may be able to look at their finances in a non-threatening environment.
A Collaborative Financial Professional:
- gathers financial data;
- prepares clients’ statements of net worth;
- develops different financial scenarios for clients to evaluate;
- provides financial guidance, planning, support and budgeting throughout the divorce process, with follow up as needed;
- explains the tax consequences of alternate solutions;
- assists in evaluating assets that are part of the marital estate.
A coach is a licensed mental health professional with specialized training in Collaborative Divorce, interdisciplinary teams, and understanding based negotiations. Coaches add expertise by way of insight, guidance and tangible strategies to support the effectiveness of the Collaborative process.
Collaborative Divorce Coach:
- helps clients develop and reinforce effective communication skills;
- helps clients increase awareness and perspective about the dynamics between the couple, including their trigger points as well as their ways of managing conflict, in order to anticipate and prepare emotionally for the Collaborative meetings;
- helps the team understand relevant aspects of the history and dynamics so as to work with maximal attunement and success with the clients;
- in families with children, the coach may develop parenting plans and co-parenting strategies to support the transition to two households.
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 functions as a neutral on the team to bring the voice of the children into the process.
A Collaborative Child Specialist:
- focuses parents on the immediate developmental needs of their children;
- helps parents develop a narrative to tell their children about divorce and explain it in a way that is developmentally accessible for their children;
- helps parents look beyond divorce and envision their children’s lives into the future;
- reminds parents that they are creating their children’s childhood memories;
- teaches parents about parenting through the crisis of divorce and creates a structure for co-parenting into the future.