THE COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE PROCESS
- Both parties are represented by
collaboratively trained attorneys.
- A team of specialists (coach,
financial planner, child specialist) assist the parents in making
hard decisions that are forward thinking and that help promote
healing and expand the parents’ ability to co-parent, post divorce.
- Full and honest disclosure
occurs; there are win-win solutions for the whole family; everyone
on the team is aware of what is happening at all times and how the
parties are thinking and concerns that need to be considered.
- The parties DO NOT have the
option of going to court with this set of attorneys or professionals
on the team. The intention is to settle out of court, all the time
focusing on people’s strengths.
- Agreements are based on each
person’s needs and are child-centered.
- It enhances the parties’ ability
to be better able to transition from one household to two.
- The process is geared at
empowering the parties. The whole team works together for this
- Collaborative Law differs from
mediation in that a team of professionals, not just the mediator,
are all working together to help the parties develop their
separation agreement. Additionally, the parties agree to stay out of
Court when utilizing the Collaborative Process.
BENEFITS OF COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE FOR THE PARTIES.
Collaborative Divorce allows the
following to happen for the clients:
- It provides for a civilized,
respectful resolution of the issues.
- It keeps open the possibility
of friendship and a business relationship with the other parent,
- It provides an opportunity
for parents to co-parent their children together and to have the
best co-parenting relationship possible.
- It protects the children from
the harm associated with litigated dispute resolution between
- It allows the parties to take
personal responsibility for handling conflicts with integrity,
thus maintaining one’s ethical or spiritual beliefs.
- It ensures the privacy of
one’s personal affairs. No details of the clients’ problems are
available to others in the public court record.
- It maintains control and
autonomous decision making for the clients. Decision making
about restructuring of financial and/or child-rearing
arrangements are not left to a stranger (i.e., a judge).
- It provides the clients with
a more creative and individualized range of choices available to
them for resolving divorce related issues. It avoids ‘rough
justice’ generally available in the public court system.
- It allows the clients to
place as much or more value on the relationships that will exist
in their restructured family situation as they place on
obtaining the maximum possible amount of money for themselves.
- It recognizes that resolving
conflict with integrity involves not only achieving one’s own
goals, but also finding a way to achieve the reasonable goals of
the other person.
- It allows the clients to
commit their intelligence and energy toward creative problem
solving rather than toward recriminations or revenge—fixing the
problem rather than fixing blame.
- It provides an opportunity
for the parties to remain connected to friends-in-common and
extended family members.
It provides an
opportunity for the clients to heal from the wounds of divorce
and to gain knowledge about how to help their children.
ROLES OF THE TEAM MEMBERS
(credit is hereby given to the contributors of Sheila Gutterman's book, Collaborative Law: A New Model for Dispute
The Lawyer's Role
To foster an environment of
To assess one’s own thinking,
as well as being tuned in to what the client is thinking and
To recognize, acknowledge and
disarm the automatic ‘champion /warrior’ reactions honed by
years of adversarial training.
To see that a client is
well-represented while working toward a fair resolution for
To work with the client’s
spouse AND their family, without resorting to litigation, i.e.,
to work in consort WITH the spouse’s attorney;
To rewrite the trial-by-combat
thinking of the adversarial model to a cooperative, bilateral,
more healing-oriented mindset; i.e,. ‘How can we equitably
balance the gives with the takes for both parties?’
To provide legal information
and advice to the client AND to focus on the human dynamics of
the client and other party.
To understand the importance of
defusing negative emotions that might otherwise build to an
explosive chain reaction.
To abide by the ethical
standards of the legal profession
To withdraw from the case if a
client withholds or gives false information or if the client
refuses to cooperate in providing this information;
To prepare and file all
paperwork with the court and withdraw upon entry of the decree.
To have the client consent to this limited representation.
The Responsibility of the Clients
with and regularly review the Principles and Guidelines for the
Practice of Collaborative Law and Ethical Guidelines for
that Collaborative Law requires a sustained belief in the
process and calls for an intellectual as well as emotional
meetings prepared to work and keep to the agenda.
assigned tasks, e.g. providing financial information etc as
requested. Don’t waste other people’s time.
when you are having trouble handling the emotional issues of
divorce and then use the coach to work through them.
‘business-like’ hat in meetings, watching words and body
language. Keep feelings separate from fact or at least identify
where they start affecting decision making. Don’t set out to be
provocative. Use your coach to help in these areas, as
yourself on the issues so that decisions are made from as
informed a perspective as possible. Stay focused during
assertive via asking questions, saying (politely) what is on
your mind. Recognize when it may be better to say nothing
during a group meeting and save your thoughts for 1:1 meetings
with your coach or attorney.
The Divorce Coach
coach is a mental health professional who helps the clients and
other team members as follows. There may be one coach for both
parties or a coach for each party, as determined by the professional
with the clients alone and / or in team meetings to assist them
through what can be the very trying process of separating from
an intimate relationship;
the client(s) in understanding the grief process, appropriate
communication skills, anger management and child development and
the needs of children. With consent of the team, the divorce
coaches may assist the clients in developing the parenting plan;
the client(s) to a therapist, as deemed necessary;
that each client signs a participation agreement so that in the
event of future legal action, the coach will NOT be called to
testify in that litigation;
the client(s) and can help them to heal from the wounds of
divorce more quickly and easily;
the other team members understand the psychological components
that are influencing the clients and thus move the process
forward in a time appropriate fashion;
- To participate in meetings
of the clients and financial planner, as deemed necessary by the
- To work collaboratively
with the clients and other team members enhance communication
and reduce misunderstanding;
- To identify and prioritize
the concerns of the parties;
- To educate the parties
about effective co-parenting skills post divorce and;
- To really listen to
each parent and help him or her feel ‘heard’ and understood.
The Child Specialist
In a ‘pure sense’ the Child
Specialist is hired to assist the parties and team members in
developing the parenting plan, in the best interests of the
There are other roles that the
child Specialist can play, however. Each team needs to determine
what will be most helpful to the team and the process, thus using
the skills of the mental health professional to the parents’ and
children’s advantage. Some of these may roles replicate those of
the ‘coach’, in which case a coach may not be necessary for these
Other roles of the Child
To educate the parents on the ages and stages of child
development, the needs of children at each state, and the
effects of divorce on children
To assist in the development of the parenting plan through
recommendations to the parents and team. To interviewing the
children, if appropriate;
To assist in determining the decision making aspect of a
assist the parties and team members in determining the best
interests of the children in regard to all aspects of
child-related matters for the separation agreement;
To assess the parents’ conflict styles and work with them on
developing positive communication patters to reduce conflict;
To help parents identify their feelings as well as those of the
children and then express them appropriately;
To help the parents ‘heal’ by fostering a true spirit of
cooperation and collaboration between the parents for the sake
of the children; and
To really listen to each parent and help him or her feel
‘heard’ and understood.