Building a Collaborative Team

Published: Thursday, November 2, 2017

The first and most important members of the Collaborative team are the divorcing couple themselves. By choosing a Collaborative process, they agree to show up at the table, even when the conversations and decisions are difficult, even when emotions run high. This choice acknowledges that their future as individuals and as a family – whatever that family will look like – is important enough to invest in a respectful divorce process.

Usually, the first step in building a Collaborative team is choosing attorneys who are well-trained in and committed to the Collaborative divorce process. The attorneys are the guides in and protectors of the process. By design, the attorneys are as invested in successfully resolving the case as are the clients. The attorneys also advocate within the process to ensure that his/her respective client's interests are voiced, heard and adequately met.

Next, coaches and neutral advisors are sought and put into place. Coaches are mental health professionals who are specially trained to keep the Collaborative process productive and moving forward. They do NOT provide therapy. Rather, they assist clients to identify desired outcomes, and to move the client's thinking toward finding a course of action designed to attain such outcomes.

Key neutral advisors trained in the Collaborative process are then selected to impart information and assistance within their respective specialty. For example, financial neutrals assist with support analyses and projections, income tax consequences, and complex property division and valuation issues. Child specialists assist with parenting challenges and give the children a voice within the Collaborative process.

Sometimes, clients will meet with or interview multiple professionals for each role in order to find the right fit for them. Other times, clients feel a good connection and trust with the first professional they meet. It may seem overwhelming or, perhaps, like overkill to take the time and care to assemble a full Collaborative team. However, full Collaborative teams can produce thorough, high quality, enduring resolutions that meet most of the client’s goals, both for specific items such as allocation of financial resources, and for preserving good parenting relationships following the divorce.