The Collaborative Divorce differs from other approaches because it uses a team to help guide families to resolutions the couple determines are best suited for their family. The voluntary process begins when the couple and the professional team sign an agreement with a disqualification clause that precludes each spouse’s lawyer from continued representation in any litigated aspect of their divorce. This disqualification clause helps keep families out of court. This confidential process is also efficient because it aligns the divorce professionals’ skill sets with the individual family’s unique needs. This support is how the team guides families towards cooperative resolutions they develop on their own.
The financial neutral collects, reviews, and verifies the completeness of the financial data, the coaches work with parents to avoid being triggered during the process, to develop better co-parenting skills and to prepare comprehensive parenting plans. The lawyers advise families on the law, their rights under the law, the range of possible resolution options, and the possible impacts one might expect from a possible resolution. Couples work together with their team to determine the best ways for their family to to divide property, share income, co-parent, and memorialize the resolution they reach all with the professional team’s support who teach couples new skills to guide them in the next chapters of their lives.
How Is This Process Different from Other Methods?
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.
In a litigated divorce the spouses pay for two sets of disclosures. Each person will pay his or her lawyer to, among other things, collect the data and prepare the court-required disclosures. In a Collaborative case, one neutral financial professional prepares the disclosures for both. That neutral will ask necessary questions, collect the financial paperwork, follow-up to insure complete accuracy, prepare the required disclosures and then facilitate the required exchange.
The financial neutral also prepares models that gives families an educated projection of their finances years down the road using proposed scenarios for resolution. The projections use assumptions that provide possible (but not guaranteed) outcomes. This information can help families compare possible scenarios one to another to see how the respective family members might fare financially considering the various scenarios.
Financial Collaborative Divorce professionals are required to obtain the CDFA designation, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. This designation means that in addition to experience as a financial planner, CDFAs also know California community property law and can help apply that knowledge as families work through possible property division sharing scenarios, income sharing, and other financial concerns such as tax or retirement considerations. The financial professionals who participate in collaborative divorces are highly trained and knowledgeable divorce professionals who have a highly honed skill set.
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.
For more information regarding a Collaborative Divorce please complete the contact sheet or call our office at 408-732-5400 to schedule a free process consultation.