The Role of the Team in Collaborative Divorce
The collaborative divorce process is an alternative way of getting divorced that allows couples to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution of all issues without going to court. The collaborative process avoids court, is confidential and gives control over the outcome to the divorcing couple. In the collaborative process both parties agree from the start not to resort to litigation. All parties sign a “Participation Agreement” which sets the tone for collaborative law and is the framework for the process. With this commitment not to litigate in place and the threat of litigation taken off the table, an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect is created allowing for honest, open communication.
The real key to the success of this process is the collaborative team. Collaborative divorce is based on a team approach. This team of collaboratively trained professionals includes attorneys, financial professionals and divorce coaches all working together to help the couple reach a fair, mutually acceptable and beneficial agreement with regard to all issues associated with ending the marriage.
In the collaborative approach each party hires their own attorney who will provide legal guidance, advice, advocacy and support throughout the process. Considering the far reaching impact of the final divorce agreement, it is important that the attorney be trained in the collaborative process and knowledgeable with regard to conflict resolution in a non-adversarial setting.
Financial experts assist the team by providing financial guidance. A certified financial planner provides advice regarding financial planning, budgeting and investment advice as well tax planning advice. An accountant provides tax planning advice and can perform an analysis of a party’s cash flow as well as value a business. A real estate agent provides guidance regarding the sale or purchase of a home. A mortgage broker provides mortgage assistance in terms of purchasing a home and guidance regarding qualifying for a mortgage.
Whereas a traditional litigated divorce will pit each party’s expert against their spouse’s expert as parties seek to “win” their case, the collaborative approach positions a team of financial experts all working in conjunction for the best interests of everyone involved.
Divorce coaches consists of mental health professionals who are collaboratively trained and assist with child and parenting aspects of the divorce as well as communication skills. Divorce coaches help parents understand how divorce may affect their children and reduce the negative impact the process can have on them. They can help to set up a realistic shared parenting schedule that considers the needs of everyone involved, including the children and which is responsive to the changing needs of the family as they grow.
No two families are the same and every divorce is different. Putting the future and well-being of your family in the hands of a court can be uncertain and unpredictable as well as costly and time consuming. It is this lack of control that so often fuels much of the conflict we often see in traditional divorce litigation. It is the feeling of being alone in the process that stirs hostility among the parties and heightens the emotional turmoil. In the collaborative process, neither party is alone. The couple has a team of professionals who know how to guide them through to finding solutions that will allow them to thrive as they move on with their new lives.
When is Collaborative Law the Best Choice For Me?
It isn’t for every client (or lawyer), but it is worth considering if some or all of these statements are true for you.
- You want a civilized, respectful resolution of the issues
- You would like to keep open the possibility of friendship with your partner down the road
- You and your partner will be co-parenting children together and you want the best co-parenting relationship possible
- You want to protect your children from the harm associated with litigated dispute resolution between parents
- You and your partner have a circle of friends or extended family in common that you both want to remain connected to
- You have ethical or spiritual beliefs that place high value on taking personal responsibility and handling conflicts with integrity
- You value privacy in your personal affairs and do not want the details of your divorce and your settlement to be available in the public court record
- You value control and autonomous decision making and do not want to hand over decisions about your future financial and/or child-rearing arrangements to a stranger (i.e. judge)
- You recognize the restricted range of outcomes generally available in the public court system and want a more creative and individualized range of choices available to you and your spouse or partner for resolving issues/conflict
- You place value on the continuing relationships that will exist in your restructured family situation
- You understand that conflict resolution with integrity involves not only achieving your own goals but finding a way to achieve the reasonable goals of the other person
- You and your spouse or partner will commit your intelligence and energy toward creative problem solving rather than toward recrimination or revenge fixing the problem rather than fixing the blame
In short: What are the benefits of Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative family law focuses on all involved parties reaching a mutually agreed upon settlement of their disputes. The process results in valuable benefits. It creates a cooperative environment where communication remains open, which provides a setting where you can work with your spouse to meet your children’s needs — regardless of their ages. That helps set a tone for open communication and reduced conflict in the future.
It establishes a team instead of adversaries. Your lawyer supports you; your spouse’s lawyer supports your spouse. But you all work together and, in doing so, retain control of the process.
In matters requiring expert opinions, both parties can jointly hire one independent consultant. That helps shorten the duration of the case and reduce the overall expense.
You and your spouse shape the agreements together – which means you both are more likely to keep them. That diminishes the parental conflict the adversarial system generates and helps protect children from facing the anguish and divided loyalties that result.
You can schedule meetings without waiting for court dates. That means you generally spend less time and, as a result, less money to reach closure. It also means you reduce the fear and anxiety associated with court proceedings.
Your issues stay within the collaborative law setting. That gives you more privacy and greater confidentiality – and less stress during an already stressful time.