The Team Approach
The team approach is a distinct aspect of a collaborative divorce. In most divorces when the spouses choose to litigate, they and their lawyers face each other in a zero sum game focused on “beating” the other side. In the collaborative law process, each spouse hires their own collaborative lawyer, and then the two lawyers help the clients assemble a ‘team’ with two neutral professionals. These four professionals assist the parties throughout the process.
The collaborative team most often includes a Neutral Financial Professional – such as a CPA or certified financial planner; and, a Neutral Mental Health Professional – such as a psychologist, therapist, social worker or other licensed mental health professional. In some cases, additional neutral team members may include accountants, business or real estate appraisers, corporate, tax, or estate-planning experts, child specialists, or other needed consultants. These individuals often attend meetings, together with core team members, to assist with particular financial, business, tax, social, and communication issues.
Benefits Of The Collaborative Divorce Team Approach
There are many benefits to the “team approach”. Each client has the benefit of their lawyer, and then also two other uniquely skilled professionals. In the group meetings, as the clients are developing options to resolve issues of property or parenting, they often turn to a neutral professional for guidance, feedback and suggestions. The parties also have meetings with each neutral professional that the lawyers do not attend. There, they discuss and develop options to resolve issues of parenting and property.
Collaborative Divorce: A Financial Neutral
A financial neutral is often more effective and cost efficient to guide the clients with gathering financial documents and preparing budgets. The financial neutral will review financial documents and create spreadsheets listing property and liabilities in a case. Similarly, the clients will meet with the neutral mental health professional to work on their parenting plan for minor children, or for assistance in navigating their communication and at times, their emotions, during the divorce. The professional neutrals provide the parties and lawyers with information framed and designed for discussion, understanding and reaching agreements.
The neutrals also communicate with the two lawyers with updates by ‘team’ email and on ‘team’ telephone calls. These calls or emails help the team stay informed on the case and get prepared for group meetings. This team approach in a collaborative divorce provides the clients with more support and more tools than they would have in a traditional litigation case. It can be more cost effective than paying lawyers to do the work of financial professionals or mental health professionals.
The team works to maintain the integrity of the collaborative process for the spouses by encouraging positive communication, respecting boundaries, and facilitating a civil resolution of even the most serious concerns.