The Team Approach to Collaborative Divorce
A Collaborative Divorce uses a team approach to help you arrive at solutions. A team may consist of just four people (you and your lawyers), but most commonly includes other subject-matter specialists, such as a Collaborative financial specialist and a Collaborative divorce coach. By working in coordination as a team, you can harness the skills, creativity, and insights of subject-matter specialists, thereby allowing you to focus on problem-solving knowing that everything is covered. In a Collaborative Divorce, all effort of the professionals is spent working towards a resolution, with no portion of the effort wasted or diluted by preparing for a court battle that is unlikely.
The Collaborative Divorce professional team includes the mix of professionals whose work focuses on these spheres of divorce: the legal, the financial, and the emotional spheres. If you have children, there will also be a co-parenting sphere.
The legal team addresses the legal issues in divorce. A neutral financial specialist focuses on the finances. A divorce coach hones in on emotions that could get in the way of reaching agreement. And, a child specialist brings information about the children to parents to help in decision making. By working with trained and skilled professionals who work in each of these spheres, you will have an excellent foundation for good decision-making.
The legal team consists of two lawyers — one for each client. Your lawyer represents you, and is not the lawyer for your spouse. Because you’ve hired your lawyer to help you reach a durable agreement, and not to “win” a case before a judge, the approach of a Collaborative Divorce lawyer is quite different than in conventional lawyer-assisted negotiations.
In fact, the lawyers will work together to build an atmosphere of trust with all, so that important issues can be productively discussed and addressed. By using a problem-solving approach instead of adversarial positioning, the lawyers will help you focus on reaching a resolution.
The neutral financial specialist compiles and analyzes financial data, and helps educate you and the attorneys about your finances. The financial specialist helps to prepare budgets, and can do projections so you have information about whether future financial needs are covered. The financial specialist helps identify tax considerations.
To the surprise of many, most lawyers and judges have no formal training in financial matters. A trained and experienced financial professional can add real value to divorcing couples. As a trained Collaborative neutral, the financial specialist brings process and dispute resolution skills to the table, and can act in perfect coordination with the other professional team members.
The divorce/communications coach is a mental health professional whose work focuses on the negotiations. The coach also helps the other professionals better understand the dynamics and other considerations, which helps make for a better process.
Coaching is not therapy; the focus is forward-looking towards reaching an agreement. Coaching is also time-limited, because its sole purpose is to help with what might hinder negotiations. Coaches may also assist in negotiating the Parenting Plan, often in conjunction with a Child Specialist.
The child specialist brings your children’s perspective to the table so you can make optimal co-parenting decisions. Divorce is not only stressful on adults, but is also stressful on children. Often, children try to protect their parents during divorce, which can lead to agreements based on incomplete understandings.
The child specialist will interview the children to bring the “voice” of the child to you. Child specialists have a strong background in child development theory and practice, particularly as to children of divorce, and can provide information to help you create arrangements that work best for your children. This allows you to minimize stressors for your child when you create your parenting plan with the support of the child specialist, coach, and attorneys.
How the Professional Team Works Together
Because Collaborative Divorce is a team process, team members communicate regularly with each to ensure smooth coordination. If you were to think of a divorce team as crew members on a whitewater raft, you could see the havoc that would result if the paddlers did not communicate the existence of a menacing rock, or how to steer around it: there would be a good chance that the raft would capsize or run into the rock. Similarly, a Collaborative divorce team needs to communicate regularly to plan for a safe and efficient voyage through your divorce.