Divorce litigation encourages the parties to develop their own independent “support teams.” Each side has their own attorneys and financial, child and mental health experts that battle each other in court. While it is important to have people looking out for your interests, it can also get in the way of finding mutually acceptable solutions to divorce disputes. Among the chief benefits of a collaborative divorce is the use of neutral team members to facilitate discussion and negotiation. Each party has their own attorney, but they also receive assistance from an interdisciplinary team of mental health professionals, child specialists, and financial neutrals. The common goal of the team is to support the parties in reaching settlement by providing unbiased information and guidance on identifying and solving problems.
Who is on the team?
The Collaborative team consists of a:
- Collaborative attorney. Each spouse has a collaborative attorney who helps gather and analyze information, develop settlement options, provide legal advice, and prepare documents. Attorneys have substantial matrimonial experience but also have undergone specific training given by the International Association of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) or its New York chapter so they can effectively assist clients in finding common ground.
- Financial professional. The financial professional participates in a neutral capacity as opposed to in litigation where each party hires a financial expert to argue his or her position. The neutral’s role is to assist the parties in analyzing their finances, including current spending and saving practices. He or she will prepare future budgets for the two new households that will need to be supported and explain the tax implications of settlement options. Professionals receive training in collaborative divorce from the IACP and can educate both sides so they can make informed decisions.
- Mental health professional. A licensed mental health professional is part of the team as a divorce coach. He or she helps facilitate communication, identify impediments to the process, and/or raise certain emotional concerns that need to be addressed. Where there are children, he or she may also assist with developing co-parenting plans. These professionals also receive specialized training in collaborative divorce by the IACP.
- Child specialist if needed. Such specialists are also licensed mental health professionals with additional training in collaborative divorce and child development. They may assist parents in communicating effectively with and providing emotional support to children.
Team members can help the parties brainstorm solutions and make educated decisions. They can assist the couple with evaluating the legal, financial, and mental health implications of different options so they choose the one that makes the most sense for them. Couples using collaborative divorce typically are more satisfied with the result because they had control of the process and came to their own settlement with full knowledge of the consequences. They can move forward in their lives more quickly and less expensively than those who pursue litigation and battling experts.
Collaborative divorce is not right for everyone. If you are considering divorce, contact me to discuss which divorce process may be right for you.