A Win-Win Approach
What is Collaborative Divorce?
Imagine a scenario where you, your spouse and both of your attorneys agree NOT to go to court. You agree not to leave your fate to a judge. Instead, you agree to have a team of professionals help you get through this process in the most respectful and peaceful way; a team that includes each of your attorneys, a neutral financial advisor and a coach, who supports the process by helping you keep you eye on the goal rather than your anger or fear.
In a nutshell, that is Collaborative Divorce.
Collaborative divorce is like mediation in that it involves a commitment to achieving a negotiated solution. However, Collaborative Divorce provides greater support for clients by bringing together a team of professionals to assist the client in addressing the legal, emotional and financial issues.
The Legal Issues
The negotiations are conducted through a series of meetings with both attorneys and clients present. However, the attorneys have contractually agreed that they will not represent their clients in a court proceeding. This means that neither attorney has a financial incentive to be unreasonable nor threatening. By agreeing to resolve the case through the collaborative process, both the attorneys and the clients are signaling their commitment to a negotiated settlement. Although the process is conducted in a manner that is much like mediation, the collaborative lawyer is not required to remain a neutral party and can provide legal advice as various alternative solutions are proposed. With collaborative divorce the client receives immediate feedback on how that particular solution compares to what a judge might (or might not) do. An honest assessment of each parties litigation prospects can be a comfort (or at least a reality check) during difficult negotiations.
The Emotional Issues
A collaborative team includes a divorce coach to help you address the emotional issues. A coach helps you to clarify what is most important to you when negotiating a solution to the various issues. The divorce coach also help you recognize what will “push your buttons” and what will push the buttons of your spouse. By identifying those things that “activate” you and prevent you (and your spouse) from bringing your best selves to the table, the divorce coach can help you find techniques to avoid these problems and can help maximize your ability to be present and effective when working with your mediator or collaborative team. Greater effectiveness in negotiations results in reduced fees for your mediator or collaborative lawyer.
The Neutral Child Specialist
If a parenting plan must be created in your case, your team might include a neutral child specialist who can give you advice about the children’s perspective when developing a parenting plan. Although children should rarely be given control over complex issues that require knowledge and experience to resolve appropriately, the children’s best interests are always served by considering their perspective and respecting their need to provide input. A child specialist can also give parents guidance on how to minimize the negative impact of the divorce on children, as well as to dispel any unnecessary fears they may have.
The Neutral Financial Professional
A neutral financial professional can greatly assist in reducing the cost of gathering the necessary financial information and clearly anticipating the financial implications of the various options available to resolve the case. Obtaining this assistance leads to greater clarity during negotiations (leading to a quicker resolutions) and a reduction in the time that the mediator or collaborative professional will be spending in gathering information.