In this latest instalment in the series on collaborative family law, we take a look at the role of mental health and communications professionals. These professionals are not necessarily psychologists or psychiatrists. Often they are social workers who are trained in the areas of mental health, communications, conflict resolution, and/or crisis management. Sometimes professionally trained mediators may also undertake this role.
The purposes of having a mental health and communications professional on board is to facilitate the settlement discussion and to maintain a level playing field.
Divorce and separation are stressful for most, even traumatic for some. Clients are often emotionally charged and many take offence over seemingly minor issues.
Usually, the professional involved will first meet with the clients individually to discuss where things are at and how they would like to approach the legal issues. After an initial assessment, the professional may invite the clients to attend a meeting together. These meetings are not meant to be therapeutic. The professional is there to gather information and build trust.
Once there is a certain degree of trust between the clients and the professional and between the clients themselves, the professional can help the clients manage their emotions and encourage co-operation.
In high-conflict cases the professional is often invited to the face-to-face collaborative meetings. Many clients find the presence of a neutral professional at the table reassuring. If things get rough (for example, if someone starts to have a fit at the meeting), the professional may be able to calm everyone down and lead the clients back to settlement discussions without compromising the integrity of the process. Because these professionals are not partisan, their words often carry greater weight than those spoken by the lawyers, who must advocate for their own clients.
This blog is provided for educational purposes and for your reference. It is not intended as legal advice and should not be regarded as such. The law may have changed since the publication of this article.