Collaborative Divorce Coaching
Collaborative processes such as Collaborative Law and Collaborative Divorce provide an opportunity for spouses to have legal representation in a problem-solving rather than an adversarial atmosphere. Developed simultaneously in Minneapolis and California, Collaborative processes create an exciting new addition to the consensual side of the divorce services spectrum. The cornerstone of the Collaborative process is a contract called the Participation Agreement that says that if the tasks of the separation cannot be resolved Collaboratively, then both Collaborative lawyers will resign and refer the couple to trial lawyers. No information generated within the Collaborative process will be introduced in any future adversarial process. This allows protected, good faith, trust based conversations about the tasks of the separation without concern about the information ending up in court.
When working as a Collaborative Divorce Coach, my services include emotional advocacy, support to constructive communication and to prepare clients to be able to negotiate well with their legal counterparts. When children are involved, Divorce Coaches support the development of the co-parenting relationship and the parenting plan.
As a member of the Collaborative team, our work is also protected from any future adversarial processes through an overlapping contract with the rest of the Collaborative team. As a team, we work to ensure a coordinated and cohesive process for you and your family.
Collaborative teams, depending on the situation, may also include the work of other Collaborative team members. You can read more about that here.
THE COLLABORATIVE OPTION
The Collaborative option is a relatively new addition to consensual processes. It can be called Collaborative Law, Collaborative Divorce or Collaborative Practice. You can read more about its history and innovations.
Essentially, the Collaborative option allows for legal representation in a problem-solving rather than an adversarial atmosphere. It also integrates therapeutic and financial services as needed in order to provide a cohesive and comprehensive process for situations in which there is a greater complexity of tasks to be resolved, and/or a lower capacity to communicate well about these tasks. And it all takes place without going to court.
Collaborative Law was created in the 1990s in Minneapolis by a senior family law lawyer named Stu Webb, who said, “I quit. I’m not going to court anymore.” He decided he would be a ‘settlement only’ lawyer. He called this approach Collaborative Law.
The cornerstone of Collaborative Law is a contract called The Participation Agreement.
(This agreement can also be called the Disqualification Agreement or the Collaborative Agreement.) If there is no signed
Agreement, it is not a Collaborative process. The Collaborative Participation Agreement says two essential things:
- No information from the Collaborative process can be used in any adversarial process or court. This creates an environment in which people can express their concerns in good faith without worrying that their comments will end up in court. At the same time official documents brought into the Collaborative process, such as financial statements, may still be used for other purposes.
- If the tasks of the separation are not resolved through the Collaborative Law process, both Collaborative Attorneys must resign and refer their clients to Traditional Family Attorneys. This protects Collaborative attorneys and clients from finding themselves in an adversarial process down the road.
Collaborative Law puts the skills and attitudes of Mediation and Negotiation together with representation and advocacy. This creates a consensual problem-solving approach to representation. You learn about what the law says about your situation from both attorneys together. Then everyone works, within the spirit of the law, to resolve the tasks unique to the situation in the way that best fits your family.
Independent legal advice is not necessary as legal advice has been provided by your Collaborative attorneys throughout the process. Your Collaborative Lawyer meets with you in individual meetings and accompanies you to any joint four-way meetings.
There are few (if any) letters written, as the work is done at the table with you, your spouse, and both lawyers present. Everyone is involved in the discussion. You are actively engaged in all aspects of the process. And while supporting documents such as financial statements will be used, the process is generally focused on conversations about family matters conducted in good faith, rather than having to create sworn documents that ‘prove’ what you are saying.
In Collaborative Divorce, in addition to their Collaborative Attorney, each client has a therapeutic professional called a Collaborative Divorce Coach. The two divorce coaches each have a responsibility to their client to provide education, emotional advocacy and support. Each divorce coach is also generally supportive to the other spouse. The two divorce coaches are expected to work as a team to understand the experiences of both adults and the whole family system.
The Nuts and Bolts:
- You generally work with your lawyers on the legal and financial tasks.
- You generally work with your coaches on the communication, relationship and child-focused tasks.
- The Collaborative lawyers and Collaborative Divorce Coaches work together as a team.
The Collaborative divorce team model may also include two more important roles: a financial specialist and a child specialist.
The Financial Specialist can come from any financial specialty that can address the financial problems to be solved. As a Collaborative team member, the financial specialist has expertise in divorce-related processes and works with clients and other team members as necessary.
They may be involved in things like gathering financial information, determining the value of the family home or family business, or using computer software to estimate standards of living over the next 10, 20 or 30 years. These services can help you resolve the division of assets and child and/or spousal support.
The Child Specialist is often an experienced child therapist with expertise in separation and divorce. He or she provides an informal, neutral, therapeutically-informed environment for the children who may be involved. These specialists help to ensure that children can show how they are doing, can express their experience of the separation in a developmentally appropriate way, and can receive support during the separation process. This specialist then brings any pertinent information to the parents and the team.
Feedback from the child specialist may help you with specific child issues in the present, with your parenting plan, and with general decision-making through the separation process and into the future.
Collaborative Law offers a toolbox of resources that can be custom fit to most families. The Collaborative team works together to understand the unique aspects of each family and to support them through the efficient resolution of the tasks of their separation.