The Collaborative Model for divorce is a settlement model for resolving all disputed issues in a divorce case. In addition to each party having legal representation by their own Collaboratively trained attorney, the Collaborative Model involves the help of a neutral Collaborative Divorce Facilitator (“CDF”), a Financial Neutral, and any other expert whose expertise is required based on particular circumstances of a given case. An additional expert could be a person to appraise or value a business or real estate, with a relatively circumscribed role in the process. All members of a Collaborative team help parties reach mutually satisfying compromises that meet as many of both parties’ interests as possible, as well as the interests of their children.
Full team meetings in the Collaborative Divorce process take place in a conference room, with the parties, their counsel, and other team members seated around a table. Meetings are scheduled at mutually agreed upon times, and all team members come to the table prepared to discuss subject matter that has been agreed upon in advance and formatted in a clear agenda circulated before the full team meeting. Parties prepare to brainstorm available options to resolve disputed issues, and to discuss the pros and cons of each of those options, from their own perspectives, the perspective of their spouse, and each party’s perspective of what is best for their children.
Frequently the CDF has a background in psychology or other mental health discipline and extensive training in non-adversarial communication. The CDF’s role is to ensure adherence to the agreed agenda and to maintain neutrality for the parties at the table. The CDF keeps discussions on track, and the focus on problem-solving for the future, rather than letting discussions devolve into rehashing and allocating blame for the past.
The Financial Neutral has a background in accounting and finance, and frequently, certification in financial planning and the tax aspects specific to asset and debt division in the context of divorce. One Financial Neutral gathers information from both parties to identify the full scope of the parties’ marital estate and to prepare various scenarios and alternatives for its division to accomplish financial goals identified by each party. The Financial Neutral can also assist in the financial disclosure process required for all divorcing parties, including preparation of parties’ Sworn Financial Statements, and budgets for the parties’ respective households post divorce.
A professional is designated to take minutes at each meeting, so that parties have a record of their discussions and the agreements they have reached as the process moves forward. The number of team meetings required to resolve all issues is determined by the parties and their team, affording parties a high degree of control over the length of their process and its cost.
Potential Collaborative clients frequently raise fears about the costs of the team approach as a concern about using the Collaborative Divorce model. In thinking about cost, It is important to bear in mind that many meetings can take place with fewer than all team members. Frequently the Financial Neutral meets with the parties separately or together, but without the expense of lawyer participation, for much of the financial disclosure process. Likewise, the CDF can help reach many of the terms of parties’ Parenting Plans, rather than negotiating terms with counsel present. Likewise, the use of a additional mutually-agreed-upon experts cuts down the expense of each party hiring their own expert, as frequently happens in litigated cases, and the Collaborative Model eliminates costly discovery in the form of written interrogatories, requests for the production of documents, and depositions. Parties agree at the outset to produce all documents that either party deems relevant to being able to reach fully informed agreements.