To find out more about Collaborative Divorce:
- Discuss Collaborative Divorce with your spouse, partner or the other parent. See if you both want to explore it as an option for resolving your conflicts.
- Consult a trained Collaborative Professional: Lawyers, Coaches and/or Financial Specialist to learn more about the Collaborative Divorce Process and how it may help you reach an agreement that is acceptable to everyone in your family without going to court.
- If either party is struggling with the emotional impact of the separation or divorce or if you need help communicating with each other about small or large decisions, then both parties should consult with a Collaborative Coach for communication coaching.
- If either parent has concerns about the impact of the separation or divorce on the children or desires guidance with developing a parenting plan for the children that meet the emotional and developmental needs of the children, both should consult with Collaborative Child Specialist together.
- If either party needs help learning about or understanding family finances or their future needs and resources, then both parties should visit and consult with a Collaborative Financial Specialist together.
To start a Collaborative Divorce:
- A Collaborative Divorce may begin by each party choosing and hiring their own Collaborative Lawyer. Then, the rest of the team is assembled.
- A Collaborative Divorce may also begin with each party individually or jointly selecting and hiring a Collaborative Coach. If they have children, they may jointly hire a Child Specialist. Then, the rest of the team is assembled.
- A Collaborative Divorce may begin with the parties together hiring a Financial Specialist. Then, the rest of the team is assembled.
- Once the Collaborative Team members are hired, they communicate with each other to make sure everyone is on the same page with the parties and schedule the initial Collaborative meeting where the parties sign the Collaborative Participation Agreement, share their interest, goals and needs, and begin planning their family’s “road map” to resolution.
- Often, prior to the initial Collaborative meeting and throughout the process, the parties meet with their shared or individual Collaborative Coach to address communication issues and emotional undercurrents so that they are at their best to discuss, evaluate and make decisions in the legal and financial meetings.
- Also, prior to the initial Collaborative meeting and throughout the process, the parties may meet together with a financial specialist, to begin to identify short and long term financial goals and determine the types of information and documentation needed.
- The number of meetings with one or more of the professionals is determined on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the parties’ needs.
A Collaborative case proceeds in an orderly, planned, and agreed upon manner.
- In a Collaborative Divorce, meetings are scheduled in advance and follow an agreed agenda.
- Negotiations take place during face to face meetings with both parties, their attorneys and other Team members.
- The Collaborative Professionals guide settlement meetings, gather documents, confer with their clients, prepare parties to share their interest, goals, and needs, answer questions, and manage the flow of the case toward a mutually acceptable resolution.
- At the initial meeting both spouses sign the Collaborative Contract (also called the Collaborative Participation Agreement) and the Collaborative Divorce Process begins with each spouse identifying what is important to them.
- In a series of subsequent meetings with one or more members of their Collaborative Divorce team, the parties gather the needed information, and with the assistance of the Collaborative Professionals, all information is shared, all questions are asked and answered.
- For each issue to be resolved, the clients have the information they need to develop options. This is done by brainstorming all possible solutions, then evaluating and agreeing upon what works best for each party and their family so they may settle all property, support and matters related to the children without going to court.
- The Collaborative Lawyers draft needed documents and court papers to finalize a no-fault divorce and implement the property, support and parenting agreements.
- Throughout, you have the opportunity to work with the expert most trained to assist you when their help is needed. Your Collaborative Divorce team has specialized training to help you:
- Learn better ways to communicate
- Deal with your emotions
- Address your parenting and time-sharing concerns
- Develop a financial plan for the short term and for each of you for the future
- Answer questions you have about divorce
- Make informed choices for the future
- Create a parenting plan
- Reach agreements and prepare the necessary documents (property settlement agreement, deeds, retirement orders, etc.)
- Obtain the no-fault divorce.
- Even though the case is complete, the Collaborative Team remains available if issues arise in the future.
The Collaborative Process may be utilized for most family concerns (and many civil or commercial disputes):
- Temporary agreements
- Custody or visitation
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Changing support, custody or visitation
- Post Divorce matters
- Pre-marital agreements
- Unmarried partners
A Collaborative Lawyer is hired to help you settle your case without using the threat of going to court:
- The Collaborative Lawyer is trained to work in a non-adversarial way with you and as a part of a Collaborative team.
- The Collaborative Lawyer is hired only as a settlement attorney and will not represent you in a contested court battle against your spouse or the other party. If the Collaborative Process terminates, they will assist their clients to transition to litigation lawyers.
- By removing the “threat of going to court” as a weapon in the negotiations, each party, each lawyer, coach, financial neutral or child specialist gets to focus all their efforts on helping you create an agreement that meets the interest, goals and needs of everyone in the family.
- Each party has their own Collaborative Lawyer and each party instructs their lawyer to adhere to the Collaborative commitments and principles to which both parties agree when they sign the Collaborative Participation Agreement. The Collaborative Lawyers will be transparent, share all information and advice, not take advantage of mistakes, give candid legal advice even if it favors the other party, respect the interests, goals and needs of both parties, and the decisions they make.
- Your Collaborative Lawyer listens to you; is your legal advisor; shares legal advice; helps you make informed decisions; supports and guides you during Collaborative meetings; and helps you evaluate your options.
- The Collaborative Lawyers by contract are instructed to work together to guide the Collaborative Divorce; help gather, share and explain the information needed for reaching resolutions; help you and the team brainstorm and evaluate options; advise you (and share with the team) about the law and legal effect of your decisions.
- Collaborative Lawyers draft the final parenting plans, the property settlement agreements and contracts, deeds and orders needed to implement the parties’ agreements.
- The Collaborative Lawyers work together to prepare, file and finalize the no-fault divorce and any additional uncontested matters such as custody or retirement orders.
- Collaborative Coaches help the parties to manage emotions and maintain and improve communication and conflict resolution skills.
- Collaborative Coaches, though trained as counselors or therapists, do not provide therapeutic services to Collaborative clients. They can make referrals to therapists if such services are needed or desired.
- Collaborative Coaches assist the parents with developing a parenting plan for their children with input from the Collaborative Child Specialist.
Collaborative Child Specialists are the “voice of the children.” They meet with the parents. They usually meet with each child. And then, they share, with the parents, insight about how the children are doing so the parenting agreements best meet the needs of the children. They have training and experience in child development so can educate the parents about how the parenting plan can address the developmental needs of each child.
- The Collaborative Financial Specialist helps the team have neutral conversations about the money, the property division, budgets and support needs all of which can be highly emotional issues.
- The Financial Specialist can efficiently gather from the clients the needed financial documentation, organize and summarize and present it to the Collaborative lawyers and clients in a neutral manner.
- As settlement options are explored, the Financial Specialist may evaluate how the proposed divisions address the clients’ financial goals and how they may or may not provide for each client in the future.
- A Financial Specialist can educate the spouse who does not have the same knowledge and understanding of the family finances so that both clients are capable of participating in brainstorming options, evaluating and making the financial decisions needed to reach a resolution that is acceptable to both.
- A Financial Specialist has credentials such as Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and may also hold a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) certificate. The financial specialist may address such topics as income tax and cash flow issues, executive compensation, stock options, cost basis analysis, retirement planning, estate planning, education expenses funding, investment allocation and income generation, and risk management issues such as life, disability and property and casualty insurance.
- When parties elect to utilize the Collaborative Divorce Process, both of them sign a Collaborative Participation Agreement which is a contract, a binding agreement, which sets out the guiding principles of the Collaborative Process so the each party is fully familiar with the do’s and don’ts required of each of them and their Collaborative Lawyers and additional team members.
- In their Collaborative Participation Agreement each party commits to
- share complete financial information and documents with each other, whether requested or not;
- hire the Collaborative lawyers and other professionals only to give advice and help work out an agreement, not to litigate in court. If either person files a court case before all the issues are settled, the Collaborative lawyers, coaches, child and financial specialists cannot be involved in it;
- to work with mutual respect, correct mistakes and only take action upon mutual agreement.
- Prior to signing the Collaborative Participation Agreement each Collaborative Lawyer individually and with the Team goes over the document with the client, so that client’s make an informed decision to commit to the Collaborative Process.
- Signing the Collaborative Participation Agreement starts the Collaborative Divorce.
- In addition to the Collaborative Participation Agreement each client signs an individual “retainer & fee agreements with a Collaborative Process” addendum with their own Collaborative Lawyer.
- Also, the clients sign retainer & fee agreements with additional team member such as their coach, child specialist and/or financial specialist.
To find out more about Collaborative Divorce:
- The Role of the Attorney in Collaborative Divorce — An article by Amy Grillo Kales, Esquire, describing the unique role of the attorneys during a Collaborative Divorce.
To find out more about Collaborative Divorce:
- The Roles of the Mental Health Professional in the Collaborative Process and How to Choose a Mental Health Professional for the Collaborative Team — An article by Douglas Lipp, a licensed clinical psychologist, on the benefits and actions taken by a mental health professional during a Collaborative Process.