The team approach helps you stay focused on the big picture. (Photo courtesy of SXC; all rights reserved.)
Collaborative family law is an alternative means of settling legal disputes between spouses. In the collaborative approach, the two spouses agree not to take their case to court. Instead they commit to settling their differences with the help of a team of professionals. Collaborative family law can work with just the two lawyers, each representing their own client, or it can involve a broader team approach. As I have now had a few successful cases using collaborative teams, today I’d like to share with readers what the team approach is all about.
The collaborative team usually consists of the two lawyers plus one neutral financial professional and one communication professional. Depending on the circumstances, an early childhood development professional may also be engaged to assist the parents in addressing the child’s needs, both present and future.
Rather than exchanging demands through the lawyers, the team approach focuses on the spouses’ interests. During the process, the financial professional can work with the individuals to draw up a financial summary for discussion.
At the same time, choosing collaborative family law doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing. Tempers may still flare, and spouses at times may escalate their differences.
The involvement of a professional trained in facilitating communications, typically a social worker or a mediator, is generally very productive. For example, if one of the spouses is particularly aggressive towards the other, the communication professional/facilitator can maintain a level playing field at the meetings and move the discussion along. Further, if the spouses and their lawyers get stuck on dollars and cents, the facilitator can reset the focus of the process to problem solving and exploring options to accommodate both spouses’ interests.
Often, clients considering the collaborative team approach are reluctant to engage with a team, citing cost concerns. In my experience, having a financial professional and a facilitator on hand actually saves money. Rather than having the lawyers compiling the financial statement or listening to the clients venting about the other spouse, a team of trained professionals will be able to deliver the required services more efficiently.
This blog is provided for educational purposes. It is not legal advice and should not be regarded as such. The law may have changed since the publication of this article.