In a Collaborative Divorce, each family's specific needs inform the pace and complexity of the process and professionals involved. Depending on the level of conflict and issues involved, spouses receive the support they need to work together to address the legal, financial, parenting, and emotional aspects of divorce through a series of joint meetings.
To begin a Collaborative Divorce, each spouse hires a specially trained attorney who will serve as his or her advocate and legal adviser. Unlike litigators in a traditional win-lose court-based divorce process, Collaborative Attorneys work with each other to support their clients in reaching agreements that meet both spouses' needs.
Some examples of Collaborative Lawyers' "outside the box" approach might include:
- Facilitating mediation-style "four-way" meetings (with both spouses and both lawyers) to identify issues and brainstorm solutions.
- Prompting spouses to talk through their high level goals for the future, to enable both to focus on future hopes rather than past regrets, and inform their settlement discussions.
- Encouraging clients to give the benefit of the doubt, forgive past wrongs, and treat each other with dignity despite the reasons for divorce.
- Providing outlines and questions for spouses to consider and discuss together, when possible, to minimize legal fees and make meetings most productive.
The financial analyst in a Collaborative Divorce plays the key role of serving as a neutral expert, reviewing all financial documents, creating asset and liability spreadsheets, and modeling possible settlement scenarios. Rather than two lawyers conducting financial due diligence at higher hourly fees, the financial analyst's work can be done with more efficiency, lower fees, and more sophisticated modeling software. The analyst can provide wide-ranging services to meet different clients' needs and level of understanding, including the following:
- Assisting clients in understanding their financial situations and implications of possible divorce settlements.
- Identifying tax considerations and projecting post-divorce tax liability for CPA review.
- Explaining valuation methods for different classes of assets or closely held businesses.
- Working with clients to build and evaluate household budgets for long-term financial security.
- Modeling net worth projections over time, under different financial settlements.
Through a divorce, spouses face some of the hardest financial and parenting decisions of their lives -- and at a time when emotions can overrun clear thinking. In Collaborative Divorce, couples can receive support from a licensed mental health counselor who serves as a divorce coach to keep the process efficient and productive. Rather than getting stuck in dead-end arguments of rights and wrongs, a divorce coach gently keeps spouses focused on moving forward, so the lawyers' time can be used most efficiently. A divorce coach also serves the crucial role of facilitating conversations to develop a parenting plan for spouses with minor children. Some examples of the coach's role include:
- Helping parents to script a conversation with children about the divorce.
- Providing support for an emotionally fragile or volatile client, to enable success in the collaborative process.
- Preparing parents to anticipate children's developmental phases and changes that can be met in adaptable and forward-looking parenting plans.
- Suggesting co-parenting "best practices" to build a healthy foundation for a two-home family and keep children's needs in focus.
For links to additional information and client experiences in their own words, click here.
Sometimes a divorcing couple doesn't need a full Collaborative Team approach, in which case we can craft a process tailored to any family's needs and budget. Some examples of other process options include:
Limited Scope Representation
Attorneys assist spouses in a cooperative negotiation process with the goal of reaching an agreed out-of-court settlement. Representation may also include the drafting and/or review of final pleadings and appearance at court to finalize the dissolution.
One neutral mediator helps spouses find common ground and broker agreements, from parenting plans to property settlements, in a series of joint meetings. Spouses consult with attorneys as needed throughout the process and for assistance with drafting agreements and court documents.
Attorneys provide focused advice to unrepresented clients on narrow topics to keep fees low. Clients do as much as they can on their own with their attorneys’ guidance, and use the lawyers only for those things they cannot do themselves.