Learning new skills and breaking old patterns can be uncomfortable at first. A Divorce Coach can help both of you learn the communication skills you need in order to work with each other effectively. The Collaborative team will structure the contact between you and your spouse to promote good communication and to make sure no one manipulates or controls anyone else constructive, respectful communication underpins a durable, fair outcome. Your individual Attorney will help you identify and communicate your needs and interests effectively to the entire team so they can be addressed in your settlement process.
Collaboration works best when both parties believe it is the appropriate approach for the family/situation and are willing to work at it. Any team member, and certainly your Attorney, can provide you with information about Collaborative Practice. You might choose to share the brochures, pamphlets, web-sites available with your spouse. You can each educate yourselves about the following advantages of the Collaborative Process:
- you two are in control of the outcome keeping both sets of needs and interests central to your settlement
- you two are best able to recognize a fair settlement and what is best for your children
- it encourages cooperation rather than conflict, which is less stressful
- it encourages strong, constructive co-parenting, which will benefit the children
- you will learn new communication skills that can benefit you in the future, both in this and in other personal and professional relationships
- you will have the opportunity to redefine your family relationships in a way that works for you
- you are likely to feel better about yourself and your ex-partner afterwards than if you had engaged in an adversarial conflict
- your privacy is better protected if your differences are not aired in Court
Opinions differ on this topic. The safety of everyone must be our first concern. Some attorneys feel most abuse situations require a traditional approach while others feel such situations are better handled in the Collaborative Process than in Court. Because of the confidentiality of the Collaborative Process, it may be easier for the participants to be forthcoming about their concerns, challenges, problems and thereby take the first steps towards accepting and choosing effective solutions and treatments. Immediate Court action is sometimes necessary, so please consult with a trained Collaborative Attorney about your specific situation and options. Collaborative practice does not avoid dealing with domestic violence or substance abuse issues, and can help a couple with safety protocols, treatment programs, appropriate referrals while maintaining privacy and respect for the willing participants involved if and when these issues emerge.
Your documents will ultimately have to be signed by a judge. There are limitations on what a judge can sign, especially in the area of child support. Your attorney will guide you into certain acceptable parameters but in general, you are in control of the outcome. The exciting thing about Collaborative Practice is that when you are able effectively work with your spouse, you will find better solutions than the Court can and you will be more likely to follow the agreements you create. Furthermore, if there are disputes in the future your experience with the Collaborative Process will have equipped you to more easily handle the situation without the expense of litigation.
If you reach a settlement out of court, the only Court appearance that will generally still be required is when you go in to have the Court sign your final documents. The local court rules in some counties do not even require this one visit; your attorney might be able to finalize the divorce without you ever having to step into a courthouse.
Every case is different of course, but certainly the Collaborative Practice is often less expensive than the traditional litigation process. What sense does it make to pay to obtain information you should freely exchange? What sense does it make to hire competing experts? Most couples, even when they are mad and hurt, have the ability to eventually determine what is best for their children and to make a fair division of their assets. With the help of a trained Collaborative Attorney the Collaborative Process lets you get to settlement without wasting time, money and feelings on fruitless attacks on each other.
Often attorneys who have not been trained and have not gained experience in the Collaborative Process think they are cooperative and pragmatic enough to participate in a Collaborative case and that the Collaborative Process is not dramatically different from how they practice. Very little of law school or traditional practice prepares an attorney for the Collaborative Process. Attorneys specifically trained in Collaborative Practice have learned a unique conflict resolution skill set. To work together as a Collaborative team, the Attorneys need to be on the same page. Therefore, your chances of success are greatly increased if both Attorneys are sufficiently trained in the Collaborative Process.
Collaborative Professionals use many of the same skills as mediators, but the roles are different. A mediator is neutral. In the Collaborative Process the Attorneys are not neutral, but rather support their respective clients while helping them explore mutually workable solutions. Also, unlike in most mediations, Collaboration involves a specific written agreement not to use the threat of going to court to bully the other party into agreement.
Collaborative Practice can be used in all kinds of Family Law situations and for other areas of the law as well. It has been used to resolve disputes regarding child support, paternity, third-party custody, parenting plan modifications, maintenance modifications, residential schedules and a host of other family law concerns. It can also be used for employment disputes, probate issues, as well as some guardianship and real estate issues. It is being used in medical malpractice cases. If you have a dispute, ask an attorney trained in the Collaborative Model whether your dispute can be resolved with Collaborative Practice.