The collaborative divorce means that the divorce professionals commit to stay out of court. The professional team, configured by and for each family individual, all agree in writing to a disqualification clause that prevents the professionals from continuing in any court-related process for the couple.
How Is This Process Different from Other Methods?
Each professional trains in collaborative divorce, mediation, and working in multi-disciplinary teams. Collaborative teams shepherd couples through the common (and some not-so-common) challenges arising in divorce. Surfacing, acknowledging, and addressing the challenges allows the team to support families in the areas and at the level they need it the most. Teams can align their greater collective well of deep professional skills and experience with the family’s unique needs. This alignment means families are less likely to return in conflict. Because some families need more support and some need less, the team should be configured to meet your family’s unique needs. One common configuration is a lawyer and mental health professional (as a coach) for each spouse and a shared neutral financial professional. However, there are no specific minimum team member requirements.
Another difference is the confidential nature of the collaborative divorce process. A family’s unique financial situation, conflicts, challenges, and resolutions are protected by the collaborative team. They are not open to the public in the same way they would be if the couple were in a litigated process.
Collaborative Divorce Attorney
Collaborative divorce attorneys have specialized training beyond their legal education. To do this work they must commit to shift their perspective on working in law. Moving away from the win/lose mindset taught in law school, Ms. Campbell practices collaboratively because it brings many benefits to families and their children. As a Certified Family Law Specialist, certified by the California Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Campbell uses her specialized family law training, her collaborative divorce training, multiple mediation trainings, and specialized communication courses to shift her practice away from a win/lose mindset to one focusing on helping families. She does this through collaborative divorce.
A collaborative divorce is different because the experienced team professionals commit to help a family finalize their dissolution while also helping them stay out of a traditional court process. The professionals, all of whom are licensed practicing members in their respective professions, also undergo a collaborative divorce training and a 40-hour mediation training.
This is a confidential process. This means that although the divorce filing is public, the aspects related to the family’s unique resolution remains confidential without the details being shared in a public court hearing, court filing, or court order that Jane or John Q Public can hear, see, or read.
Neutral Financial Professional
These professionals are trained in mediation, collaborative divorce and in California Divorce Law. Initially they collect financial data to prepare the disclosures that are the comprehensive financial data that must be exchanged between all couples divorcing in California. In collaborative divorces only the financial neutral prepares both sets of disclosures. This helps keep those costs lower. They also assist with the financial settlement discussions related to property division or spousal or child support.
They can also prepare financial models to show how each spouse might fare years down the road under a particular settlement proposal.
As a neutral they are well-positioned to maintain the trust of both parties while asking difficult questions about the completeness of the information provided, asking questions about any discrepancies appearing in the data and making sure both spouses understand the financial information and settlement options being discussed.
Skilled Mental Health Professionals
Other important members of the Collaborative Divorce team are licensed mental health professionals (MHPs). Called coaches in the collaborative process, MHPs might be a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), or a psychologist (PhD). In addition to the licensing requirements for their respective designations, MHPs must also take the collaborative divorce training and a 40-hour mediation training. In a collaborative divorce, the MHPs work as communications coaches. They use their mental health expertise to coach individuals as they move through a highly emotional and stressful process.
Mental health coaches are invaluable because they identify triggers or buttons that might get pushed during the process. They then identify strategies to help spouses cope with those triggers and redirect their emotional energies. The work they do often reduces the cost and time it takes to move through the divorce process because they help people work through the emotions this process evokes. While those emotions might be ignored in other processes, a collaborative divorce team skillfully assists parties when they are experiencing those emotions so that they have much less charge moving forward. This means that people engage in the process more fully and often more quickly to help develop agreements that work for both spouses for years to come because underlying conflicts were acknowledged.
MHPs are very important professionals in this process especially when there has been a power imbalance in a relationship. One of our process goals is for each person to feel comfortable respectfully asserting his or her needs in this process. The process only works when both spouses participate.
If there are children then MHPs play a crucial role in helping parents learn to co-parent effectively. They can normalize the co-parenting process and help set expectations so that parents share the same expectations regarding co-parenting behavior.
MHPs also teach parents co-parenting communication skills as part of this process. The parents can learn a new shared vocabulary that helps both of them keep their focus on their children and access their better, higher-intentioned selves that we all hope to be as parents but sometimes fall short. Sharing the same language can help facilitate that transition for both parents.