The collaborative process is a team process. This means that this process can be accessed through an initial contact with any of the professionals in our group, whether this person is a lawyer, a divorce coach, a child specialist or a financial specialist. We have found that people seeking information on how to separate can come to us through different doors, depending on their primary concerns. From there, we help spouses build their collaborative team, comprised of those professionals that can best support them in addressing their particular issues. Each spouse will have to retain a collaborative lawyer, whose role is critical in helping a couple to negotiate their separation agreement, but the couple will also have the expertise of other professionals on the team to work on such aspects as a financial settlement, or a parenting plan. At the first collaborative team meeting, the spouses will sign a Collaborative Participation Agreement with their lawyers and the rest of their professional team. They will commit to sharing information openly, to negotiating in good faith, and to agree not to go to court. At this meeting, their goals and interests will be identified, as well as the particular issues and challenges which need to be addressed. The meeting concludes with the couple having a “road map” of their separation process, in which they have an understanding of which professionals will work with them on which issues, and when they can anticipate pulling all their work together in the form of a legal separation agreement.
In subsequent meetings, the spouses will work together in turn with their lawyers and divorce coaches in a 4-way meeting format, to address each of their identified goals. Divorce coaches may address concerns such as decision-making, communication skills, co-parenting challenges, and protocols for resolving conflicts. Divorce coaches also work individually with the parties to offer emotional support, build skills essential to co-parenting, or assist them with identified goals in moving forward with their lives. At times, the couple may meet with their lawyers and coaches together in reaching settlements, or with their lawyers and their neutral financial specialist. The financial advisor can value a business, consider division of assets, provide advice on sharing income, pensions and insurance, and other financial issues.
The parties may also retain a child specialist, whose role is to represent the interests and needs of the couples’ children. The child specialist can meet with the children and parents to assist the parents with post-separation parenting arrangements. A child specialist is a neutral party who will listen to the children in an unbiased manner and with the children’s permission, communicate the children’s views to the parents. The child specialist can advise on parenting that is age-appropriate and will best meet the specific needs of the children. The child specialist attends 4 way meetings with the coaches and the parents to assist with developing a parenting plan for the children, and may also attend meetings with the coaches and lawyers as required.