Overview of the Team
A Collaboratively-trained Attorney represents each client. The attorney advises his or her client so that he or she can identify the needs and interests that will need to be met to the maximum extent that marital resources allow given the needs and interests of the other party and of the minor children. The attorney will help their client to articulate needs and interests in direct discussions, either in the context of the whole team or in meetings outside of the full team, with the CDF and/or the Financial Neutral. Attorneys help clients so that they are able to negotiate sustainable agreements to obtain their divorce, and, hopefully, to negotiate agreements post-divorce rather than resort to litigation when changed circumstances require changed agreements.
Collaboratively trained attorneys refrain from using adversarial language and techniques, encouraging their own client to understand the merits of the other’s needs and interests and what will best help their children thrive. Each party’s attorney will educate their client on legal issues, such as child support, maintenance (child support), how various kinds of assets are divisible, how judges assess what is “fair and equitable” in deciding whether to approve the agreements that are submitted to the court.
Collaboratively trained attorneys work with the other attorney and the other professional team members to create agendas that will structure each team meeting and to hold a safe environment to maximize the productivity of settlement discussions.
The Collaborative Divorce Facilitator (CDF)
The CDF, frequently a mental health professional, facilitates communication by identifying emotional issues and reactions to them that might, without containment, derail the negotiation process. Working with both spouses the CDF helps each articulate and clarify their own personal goals, needs, and interests to reach workable divorce agreements. The CDF is particularly skilled in helping parents create a foundation for co-parenting after divorce and reaching the written terms of their specific Parenting Plan which will be submitted to the court to be made permanent orders for handling parenting time, decision making, and financial issues related to the parties’ children.
The Financial Neutral
The Financial Neutral helps you identify, document, gather, and analyze the financial information relating to assets, debts, and income that is needed to resolve the financial issues in your divorce. The Financial Neutral provides projections of income and expenses based on your specific current situation as well as your future resources, such as pensions and retirement savings. The Financial Neutral illustrates varying financial realities by creating real-time, after-tax projections of different settlement options. The Financial Neutral may also be able to provide assistance in obtaining fair and accurate valuations of assets. As part of the Collaborative Process both spouses agree voluntarily to provide all relevant information. This voluntary, transparent exchange of information avoids expensive and time consuming legal proceedings to discover hidden documents or compel the production of them with court orders.
Additional Team Members
During the Collaborative process, the parties may choose to engage other neutral professionals to assist with specific areas that require their unique expertise.
The Child Specialist and Other Professionals
In the Collaborative Process, as in other divorce and family law cases, if parents are unable to agree on how to best serve the needs of their children, even with the help of the CDF, they may choose to jointly engage a child specialist, with special expertise on the developmental needs of children, to provide advice and assistance specific to their child's needs. When there are minor children, a neutral child specialist may be asked to help parents learn and implement co-parenting skills; to perform or oversee evaluations and make recommendations about what arrangements would be in a child's best interests; and to help parents ease the children's transition from one household to two.
If there is a need for information about the value of real property, businesses or specific items of personal property, neutral appraisers can be hired to give opinions of value.
If the team's financial professional feels his or her neutrality might be compromised by performing needed services, an accountant may be engaged to trace separate property issues or analyze the books of a business. CPAs may consult with a team about tax matters or long-term planning.
Therapists are sometimes hired to work with children or one or both of the parties if there are specific needs to be addressed.
Experts in specific fields
Family law cases sometimes include issues involving other areas of law. Real estate experts, estate and probate lawyers, and insurance professionals, for example, can provide critical information to divorcing couples. The beauty of the system is that clients get customized information specific to their case and nothing more.