The collaborative divorce model involves a team approach to resolve disputes. Because the team members are working together to reach a settlement, the adversarial nature and posturing often found in traditional divorce litigation is lessened. The needs and dynamics of every family are different, so not all cases will require the involvement of the entire team. However, all collaborative divorces require each party to have an attorney. A complete collaborative divorce team includes: two collaborative attorneys, two coaches, one neutral financial professional and a child specialist.
The roles of each team member are briefly described below:
- Advocate with and for their client.
- Advise their client regarding their legal rights, obligations and responsibilities.
- Help their client clarify goals, concerns, priorities and values.
- Work with mutual respect when interacting with the other attorney and other team members to manage conflict, and present solutions and options available to the parties.
- Spend the great majority of their time, energy and creativity on helping the parties reach a settlement.
- Write all agreements, documents and forms required to obtain a legal marital dissolution of the parties.
- Are mental health professionals who offer their clients support, skills and options during the negotiation process.
- Are traditionally matched with one coach per client, often on the basis of gender (i.e. female coach with a female client).
- Are mental health professionals but do not provide therapy, which is a common misperception of their role in the collaborative process.
- Teach communication skills, offer stress management, provide emotional support and often assist in helping the parties reach a parenting plan/schedule that meets the parenting concerns of both parties, as coaches are well versed in understanding child development and needs.
- Assist the parties in communicating more effectively together so they can address family issues with less emotion and more like business partners.
- Inform the parties about the effects of divorce on the minor children.
- Act as allies in support of their client.
- Demonstrate mutual respect when interacting with the other party and team members.
Neutral Financial Specialist
- Is neutral, which means there is one financial specialist advising both parties and attorneys.
- Is usually a CPA, Certified Financial Planner or Certified Divorce Planner who assists in gathering the parties’ financial data and information, prepares budgets for the parties and prepares options for the division of their property.
- Explains to both parties their respective financial situations, answering each party’s questions regarding financial issues during the process.
- Prepares DissoMaster™ reports that calculate spousal and/or child support for the parties and attorneys to review.
- Assists the parties in determining the value of a business, if qualified to do so.
- Assists the parties in determining their respective cash flow available for the payment of support.
- Helps to resolve misunderstandings and answers questions concerning financial matters.
- Helps each party determine a financial plan after the divorce is final.
- Demonstrates mutual respect when interacting with the parties and other team members.
- Has experience, as a trained mental health professional, in dealing with children and their specific needs during their parents’ separation and divorce.
- Is there to give a voice to the children so that they do not have to openly take sides between their parents.
- Meets with the children and provides a safe and comfortable environment to discuss their concerns, goals and fears.
- Reports back to the team and parents about the children’s concerns and offers assistance to the parents and team in developing a plan that addresses what the children have expressed.
All families in divorce have different issues and needs, which the collaborative divorce process is customized to meet. Having collaborative attorneys is mandatory for the process, and these attorneys work with each spouse to determine which other collaborative team members are appropriate in a particular case.