What is Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative Divorce is a process in which negotiation replaces litigation as a means to reach a satisfactory conclusion. The goal of Collaborative Divorce is to reduce conflict and generate constructive solutions.
How does Collaborative Divorce work?
Collaborative Divorce utilizes a team approach to build a structured, non-adversarial process to resolve property, support and parenting issues. All parties agree to address all issues without court involvement. Collaborative Divorce requires full disclosure and full cooperation on the part of the couple seeking dissolution.
And who constitutes the members of this "team?"
The team typically includes the parties seeking divorce, two attorneys – one for each party – and often a coach, a neutral financial professional, and possibly a child specialist if required. Importantly, though, Collaborative Divorce is a team process with all members sharing the goal of peaceful and fair resolution.
So, who is the "coach" and what is his/her function?
The coach is typically a mental health professional, often a psychologist who does not act as a therapist. Rather, it is the job of the coach to keep emotions in check, to maintain the appropriate tone during the meetings, and to lend support to either party when things get too stressful or overwhelming. Families work with the coach to create the parenting plan that will fit their family’s needs best.
And the financial person?
This is typically an accountant or a financial advisor who also is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™. This means that they have specialized training to deal with the financial aspects of divorce. This person acts as an objective neutral whose job is to help the team members understand any of the financial aspects of the divorce.
Can any lawyers, coaches, or financial people be members of the team?
No. ALL collaborative practitioners must have specialized training in their particular area, be members of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) and must be committed to the Collaborative Divorce process.
How can we collaborate if we aren’t getting along?
Many people recognize that their marriage is over, and yet they want a secure and private setting for coming to agreement regarding the parenting of their children and the distribution of their property. Further, collaborative practitioners are specially trained to address conflict and disagreement in a creative and calming fashion. The team of professionals works with the parties together or individually to acknowledge fears and concerns, and then focus each individual toward a productive, non-adversarial resolution that is acceptable to both parties.
What if we have to go to Court?
Your collaborative attorney cannot ever represent you in court. This concept is central to the collaborative process and to the couple’s commitment to a non-adversarial resolution of their divorce-related issues. The court system does not become involved in the collaborative process until the final agreement is signed and the couple is ready to submit it to the court. The need to go to court prior to the final hearing indicates a breakdown in the negotiating process.
Does every divorce require all members of the team?
No. Each family is different and unique. The initial contact person should be able to help determine the best complement of players for the particular situation.
Doesn’t this multi-professional approach cost a lot of money?
Not necessarily. In fact, we think overall the collaborative process creates cost efficiencies. If the coach can keep the process from breaking apart because of emotional issues, and the financial person can bring clarity to financial issues, the process should proceed in a more cost-efficient manner.
How does Collaborative Divorce differ from Mediation?
In mediation, one neutral professional works with the couple to resolve disputes. The mediator assists the parties in understanding each other’s points of view and developing settlement options. The mediator cannot give legal advice or advocate for either party.
What is a Collaborative Practice Group?
Collaborative professionals who have undergone similar training organize themselves into practice groups as a way of ensuring a common basis of professional training, understanding and trust between the practitioners. They frequently meet as a group to problem-solve and discuss unique issues that may arise in a collaboration. This enhances their ability to work together to assist their respective clients when the negotiations become difficult or emotionally-charged.
How much does it cost?
There is no set fee for a Collaborative Divorce. Collaborative representation requires a fee agreement between the attorney and client, and time is billed by the hour. Jointly-retained professionals are paid separately. However, the time spent in a collaborative meeting is much more cost-efficient than court time, in that the attorney’s time is solely focused upon resolving the client’s case.