The parties review the important issues of their own divorce, and each spouse signs a Collaborative Participation Agreement agreeing to adhere to the Collaborative Process. The lawyers sign it, too, along with any other professional involved in the process.
This sets parameters for a team-oriented approach to divorce, with lawyers, mental health professionals, financial planners, and other experts who are also collaboratively-trained.
In Collaborative Divorce, there is an understanding that if the process goes off the rails, the team disbands, and none of the professionals can continue to support this couple in their court-based divorce.
While some divorce cases can evolve into battlegrounds, where each spouse wants to emerge victorious with the most parenting time, the most money, and the most property, Collaborative Divorce does not promote the idea of winners and losers.
Rather, a shared desire to maintain cooperation drives this approach. Plus, all parties agree to promote dignity and exhibit respect while working together to develop outcomes each spouse can live with.
If you can imagine a “win-win” situation in a divorce, this is it!
Collaborative agreements require full disclosure of information and financials. Lawyers expect both spouses to be involved in the process with an open mind. Plus, there should be no behind-the-scenes hiding of assets or other rogue tactics that can complicate a divorce and diminish trust.
The Collaborative Team
Collaborative Divorce involves divorcing clients and their Collaboratively-trained attorneys, along with a team of other Collaboratively-trained professionals. These skilled professionals share a belief in guiding a couple to peaceful dissolution.
A Collaborative Divorce team may include a Financial Neutral, Divorce Coach, and Child Specialists.
The Financial Neutral is usually a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), or Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), CPA, or accountant.
These professionals are the financial hub of the process. They gather all of the financial information and documentation from the divorcing couple. They help create each spouse’s budget, offer suggestions to maximize available family income for spousal and child support, review property divisions and weigh in on other financial matters. These experts look at the parties’ financial circumstances from the perspective of divorce, understanding potential tax ramifications and financial considerations.
Mental health professionals are involved in the role of Coaches and may act as the Case Manager
A mental health professional may also contribute to the team as a Child Specialist who understands and advocates for children in a divorcing family.
A Child Specialist can listen to and then speak for children and their needs in the divorce. In some situations, a child may want to be heard separately, or a parent may have a particular concern.
The Child Specialist meets with the child, specifically addressing his or her needs. One benefit of Collaborative Divorce is its view of the family as a whole, with a desire to create a solution that benefits all.