WHO MAKES UP AN EFFECTIVE COLLABORATIVE TEAM?
An effective collaborative team consists of two spouses who are committed to and educated about the collaborative divorce process. The team also includes each spouse’s respective collaborative legal professionals (LP’s) and divorce coaches, who are also committed to and educated about the process. A team often includes other neutral professionals, such as a child specialist (CS) and a financial specialist (FS).
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF A DIVORCE COACH?
A divorce coach helps a spouse work effectively in a collaborative divorce (CD) setting. The coach can focus the spouse on his or her main goals, and suggest compromises and alternative proposals. The coach can also help spouses avoid being sidetracked by issues that are not actually among their previously stated main concerns. A coach also offers emotional support, and provides each spouse with the confidence and courage to move through the steps of divorce.
A divorce coach almost always charges a lower fee than a divorce attorney. In this way, a coach may bring down the total cost of divorce, because the coach can answer questions that would otherwise be fielded to an attorney.
HOW TO APPROACH YOUR SPOUSE ABOUT THE OPTION OF COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE
Consider how your spouse would react best–by hearing about CD from you, a neutral friend, a therapist, a priest or rabbi, or another professional?
Arrange for your children to stay with someone during and after the conversation, so each parent can unwind without the children present.
Review your reasons for wanting to engage in CD, and be prepared to explain them to your spouse.
Review your fears/concerns about approaching your spouse, and plan how to address them.
For example, if you fear that your spouse may react very emotionally, meet your spouse in a public place, with independent transportation. Or, you may want to draft an invitation letter to your spouse instead of approaching him or her in person.
If you feel it’s necessary, draft an actual agenda and script to use when approaching your spouse about CD.
Bring materials provided by your CD attorney for your spouse to review. This way, he or she can consider the option later, when feeling more receptive.
Focus on discussing the CD process–not actual settlement proposals–with your spouse. Discussions about procedure–rather than substance–are less likely to lead to argument.
Schedule a relaxing activity for yourself for immediately after the CD meeting (walk, meet up with supportive friend, engage in hobbies and exercise, etc.)
4. WHY USE A FINANCIAL SPECIALIST?
Depending on the complexity of your case, a financial specialist could be essential. A financial specialist is neutral, and can answer many questions from clients regarding financial matters. The financial specialist will likely collect financial documents from the clients, then generate reports that help them make informed decisions.By employing the skills of a financial specialist, you will have peace of mind that your settlement is fair and equitable.
5. HOW DOES COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE DIFFER FROM TRADITIONAL COURTROOM LITIGATION?
A collaborative divorce does not involve the court or a judge. The parties do not have to rearrange their schedules to meet court dates, and wait in court to be heard by the judge. Instead, parties schedule mutually convenient meeting times that work with their work and childcare obligations.
In addition, CD allows for privacy. Many people don’t realize that in a traditional courtroom, there is open seating. All litigants wait in the courtroom while other cases are being heard. Further, documents filed with the court are generally accessible by the public.
CD is also a more child-friendly option. Because spouses are not pitted against each other in an adversarial system, but are instead encouraged to work together to find solutions, there is less hostility. This attitude carries over to home life and children.
6. HOW DO I KNOW IF MY SPOUSE OR I ARE APPROPRIATE CANDIDATES FOR COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE?
If you haven’t approached your spouse about the option of collaborative divorce, here are some helpful guidelines. Ask yourself:
Have you both come to accept that a divorce is inevitable?
What is your spouse’s general communication style?
What conversations have worked for you and your spouse in the last year or so?
Where have you and your spouse encountered challenges in communication?
How does your spouse generally react under stress? Is he or she fragile?
What concerns do you each have regarding the divorce?
Do both spouses have equal information about your overall financial circumstances?
How does your spouse view you?
Is your spouse willing to listen to other people’s points of view?
How does your spouse feel about going to court?
7. HOW TO BOOST YOUR CHANCES OF A SUCCESSFUL COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE
There are a number of ways to increase your chances of success:
Make sure you feel thoroughly prepared for and understand the CD process before beginning any meeting. If not, ask your attorney or coach for further guidance.
Follow expectations in direct communications with your spouse and the professionals within and outside of collaborative meetings.
Stick to temporary agreements that you make in collaborative meetings.
Do the homework you have agreed to complete in collaborative meetings.
Keep the other parties in mind when taking any action during collaboration.
Attend all required coaching meetings.
8. WHAT HAPPENS IF THE COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE PROCESS BREAKS DOWN?
If spouses decides that the collaborative divorce process is not working for them, they can withdraw and try another process such as mediation or court. If they make this choice, each spouse’s respective collaborative legal professional must withdraw from representation. Further, no members of the team (child specialist, financial professional or coach) may be involved in the litigation. In addition, no file records or documentation drafted during the collaborative divorce meetings can be used in litigation.