Collaborative Divorce occurs without ever going to court. Collaborative Divorce is a non-adversarial, team process aimed at providing an equitable, mutually agreed upon settlement. When children are involved, a principal goal is to allow parents to co-parent effectively and well, during and after the divorce.
The Collaborative Divorce team is composed of two lawyers, a financial specialist and a coach (or coaches). In marked contrast to an adversarial divorce, there is open communication among all team members. The goal of all team members is to arrive at a mutually agreed upon settlement that both protects and respects the interests of both individuals.
COLLABORATIVE COMMUNICATIONS COACH
I work as a collaborative communications coach on the collaborative divorce team. A coach is a mental health professional with specialized training in the collaborative divorce process. Most frequently, each spouse has his/her own coach in addition to his/her own lawyer. On some occasions, there is a single, neutral coach for both individuals. The purpose of a coach is to help each person manage the intense emotions that arise in the course of a divorce, and to help each person advocate for him/herself clearly and well during the collaborative process.
As a coach, I typically meet alone with my client, and then meet collectively with the other spouse and his/her coach. These "4-way meetings" are aimed at allowing each spouse's concerns and preferences to be respectfully aired and heard. It is a forum to resolve conflicts as calmly and productively as is possible. When children are involved, these meetings also focus on developing a comprehensive parenting plan, with input from the child specialist.
I work as a child specialist on the collaborative divorce team. A child specialist is a mental health professional trained in normal child, adolescent and adult development. I typically meet first with each parent individually, to gather information about the characteristic development of each child, and the reaction of each child to the ending of the marriage. I then meet directly with each child, usually individually, to gather information about how s/he is coping with the dissolution of the marriage, and to understand his/her concerns.
Careful attention is paid to possible feelings of responsibility for the divorce, perceived pressure to "take sides", and perceived pressure to "act as if s/he is OK". My job is then to be the "mouthpiece" for each child in the parenting meetings; to be sure that his/her concerns are addressed and to advocate for his/her needs.
THE COLLABORATIVE TEAM
I am either a coach or a child specialist on the collaborative divorce team. In either role, I communicate regularly with all other members of the team. Property settlement and division of assets are issues primarily handled by the lawyers, and the financial specialist, however I am aware of the progress of these negotiations and available for consultation.